Non-responsive Clients: Why Your Client Doesn’t Care

by Ruben 3 Minutes

I’m sure you’ve been there before. Stuck on a project because the client hasn’t gotten back to you so you can keep working. Emails and phone calls go unanswered; and when they’re answered, you’re greeted with excuses rather action items.

It’s a site for them and they just don’t seem to care.

You continue to chase them throughout the entire project. The worst part of it is that it’ll most likely end badly. They’ll be surprised with what you deliver

They’ll wait to come up with a string of never-ending changes and revisions because it’s not what they wanted.

And they blame you.

If you just would have consulted with them, they wouldn’t have to ask for all these changes. The undercurrent is there. You’re the bad guy.

Who’s Really at Fault?

After much back and forth you work through the final phase of the project and somehow end up keeping your sanity. Interaction with the client at the end isn’t pretty but you somehow pull it off. Still, you end up with a pissed off client. You end up stressed out and making too little money for too much hassle.

So why did this happen? Why do some clients lose interest once the project starts? Don’t they care? It’s for them after all!

They should care, but they don’t.

There are many reasons why they don’t, some of them are:

  • They procrastinate
  • What you want is not very important (to them, at the moment)
  • It’s just plain boring
  • It’s hard work (they’re lazy)

That’s right, you’re dealing with people not robots. So people get bored. They procrastinate. They slack. It’s human. We all do it. It’s just that some people do it at different times than others. And some do it more often than others.

You’re being paid money to be on the ball, so you are. They’re having to deal with this abstract idea of a web site and it’s just not all that exciting. Sorry to break it to you but what you’ve done early in a project isn’t all that interesting to them.

What can be done?

Make it a Visual Process

People are visual. That’s why you’re a lot more likely to get feedback on early mockups or comps than you are with content changes or questions about processes.

So make it a visual process. Don’t tell them how something is going to work, show them process flow diagrams, mockups, mind maps and screenshots.

It’s simple but it works. It makes things more interesting.

Make them Commit

A simple way to get clients to follow through is to make them commit. How’s this done? Give them a deadline.

Instead of saying:

“Can you send the pricing plan information so we can work on the pricing page?”

Say:

“We’re ready to work on the pricing page, to prevent delays we will need the pricing plan delivered no later than Thursday”

And don’t just say it but make sure you get them to agree to the deadline and then repeat the confirmation: “Ok, so you’re sending us the pricing plan packet by Thursday, right?”

Without making them commit to a specific date, there’s nothing preventing them from doing it later. Giving them a date makes it concrete. If you can get them to commit to a deadline in front of others (in person or through email) even better.

Motivate With Pain

One thing most of these clients have in common is that they’re motivated by pain more than pleasure. If they were motivated by pleasure then the thought of having the project completed quickly would be driving their behavior. In these scenarios, it’s not.

Ways to motivate with pain?
Jamaican Hot Sauce

Make them pay. Delays on feedback or deliverables are billable. Work that into your contract. Remind them if it looks like it’ll become an issue. Hold them to it.

Consider other penalties for delays. One of the vendors I contracted had an interesting penalty written into their contract.

The contract stated that I agreed to get required items back to the vendor no later than a week after they’ve asked for them. Delays beyond that time would be billable. And beyond that, the project would end — final payment due at that time.

Seems a little harsh but I didn’t mind at all. If anything it told me these guys meant business. They move quickly and get things done.

In the End

There’s no guarantee that any of these suggestions will turn the tide but they’ll certainly help. You’ll most likely want to use a combination of the items I’ve suggested for best results.

It’s important to remember that there’s a certain way to go about doing these things. Don’t be a hard ass about it. Be polite yet firm. Doing so will help make dealing with slacking clients a lot less painful.

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by Ruben
Ruben originally founded proposal software, Bidsketch as a one-person company while working as a software developer for a billion dollar payroll company. Since its early days as a “company of one,” Bidsketch has grown to help over 2,000 paying customers win billions of dollars in new business and save thousands of hours in the process.