The difficult client
Singapore, 31st May 2010
When we start a project with a new client we never know how easy or difficult the ride will be. Every project more or less starts out with the same ground rules, the fee proposal as you submitted to the client, which was either accepted and signed off as is or modified into a contract agreed and signed by all parties. Some companies (specifically the big multi nationals) have their own contracts and have a legal department doing nothing else then scrutinizing every little bit of legal documents. Sometimes their contracts come back with so many additions and clauses protecting themselves that you wonder whether you will survive this project in one piece. It is normally a sign of a difficult client…
When things go well there is no real use for the contract, you do your work, the client is happy and pays. But it is when things go bad that suddenly the contract comes afore and arguments arise about its interpretation. The truth is we all start a project with certain assumptions. We, the lighting designers, in regards to our deliveries, and the client in regards to their expectations. As long as these are more or less in balance the project progresses in good spirit and with good communication any eventual disagreements can be resolved in good harmony.
Today I had a long and tedious 3 hour meeting with a “difficult” client. We presented “version 2’ of our lighting concept, after having incorporated most comments and feedback resulting from our round one presentation. We felt confident going into the meeting that we had addressed most issues, but somehow this client again found ways to pick on every little detail. It did not help that we were talking to engineers with little imagination let alone understanding the concept of design intent. I am sure some of you will relate to this.
The point that I am making is that it is important to understand and communicate with your client on all levels throughout the design process to eliminate misgivings and make sure expectations are met if not managed, specifically with difficult clients. Once you get off on the wrong foot it is hard to redress the situation. While we can stick to our truth, in the end the client is still king…..