Why the Client Isn’t Always Right

By Joel Patterson
client

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase the customer is always right. And in many everyday situations, the customer can be right without much consequence (a misheard order or a misunderstanding concerning a return policy, for example). But the world of software is far more nuanced. While the client interacts with the software, they often don’t have the technical expertise to diagnose a problem, much less find a sustainable solution. 

Let’s take a deeper look into why the client isn’t necessarily always right, and the importance of everyone being on the same team. 

No one is always right. Just because I don’t subscribe to the idea that the client is always right doesn’t mean I think that they don’t bring invaluable insights to the table. We as the implementation experts have extensive knowledge of the product, while the client has an indispensable understanding of the business and the necessary tasks a software system must be able to perform. By allowing everyone to bring their best assets to the team, you create a collaborative relationship between consultant and client. 

Let the experts handle it. New software systems can be intimidating and hard to understand. Therefore, when a client comes to me lamenting a problem, it’s my job to get to the bottom of it. We’re the experts! But sometimes clients think they understand the issue. This is a prime example of a time when the client isn’t always right. Once we find the true root of the problem, we can then move forward together with technical resolution, user training, and ongoing support. 

Some demands can’t be met. Technology is amazing, but there will always be some limitations to what it can do. Sometimes a client request is simply unattainable, in which case a team of implementation experts must work to find a different path to achieve the same goal. Challenges come up in every project, and with each new solution comes a deeper understanding of the system’s capabilities. If there were never any obstacles, there would also never be any growth!

Happy people have happy clients. The client doesn’t come first. Wait, what?! That’s right. I believe that people come first. Sometimes our team will work long hours to meet an important client deadline. But sometimes our team’s quality of life comes before client requests. The relationship you have with a client should be one of give and take. Unreasonable demands should be met with understanding but also firm boundaries. A team that is constantly burnt out will be far less dedicated than a team that is supported and given the time and space needed to create their best work. 

Teamwork over everything. I like to approach each new project with the understanding that both my team and the client will have moments where we don’t have all the answers. Approaching the situation with humility, mutual understanding, and appreciation for each person’s unique knowledge and skill set creates a dynamic and trusting foundation on top of which the rest of the project is laid.