How to Manage Client Perception

client perception
Managing client perception

I was always taught not to worry about what people think.  That’s easier said than done.

It doesn’t always work in a customer-facing scenario, particularly in the consulting world.  In a perfect world, your boss would judge your performance strictly on that – your performance.  It shouldn’t matter how you look, what you wear or how weird you act.  Look at the final product and judge it by its quality.

Client perception is client reality

It would be nice if the client did that too.  But that’s not how it works.  When you’re at the client site, client perception is your reality.  If you show up dressed in jeans when they wear business casual, they may develop a perception that your work is more casual than theirs too.

There is a lack of privacy when you work at the client site too.  You often sit in an area where people can walk by and see your laptop screen and whatever you’re working on.  Check your Facebook status for two minutes and the client manager is bound to walk by.  One has to be careful about what is on display at the client.

Some clients have strict restrictions regarding what websites and applications can be accessed on their network.  Others can be more permissive.  Most organizations monitor web activity at a minimum.

For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants

Managing client perception

In my book, Consulting 101, I suggested visiting only websites for legitimate business purposes.  While I think that’s still good advice, most companies have leeway for personal usage.  It’s still a good rule of thumb to limit online work to client-related work while working at their site, whether it can be seen by someone walking by, or the tracking software.

Other behavior at the client site is just as important.  If you’re seen standing around chatting with people, the client may wonder if you’re billing them for idle chatter rather than for legitimate work.

Certainly, all work and no play can make you less productive in the long run.  Everyone needs some downtime.  But a consultant working at a client site needs to balance that with what the client sees you doing the majority of the time.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. 

Related Posts
How to Deal with Emotional Clients
I’ve usually been able to manage my emotions in business settings.  Everyone makes mistakes and I’ve always had a tolerance for that. But every once in a while, you get a ...
READ MORE
The 3 Ds of Client Subversion and What To Do
As a consultant, I’ve liked every client I’ve ever served.  There are some, however, that I’ve liked more than others. Every once in a while I run across one person at ...
READ MORE
Pushing Too Hard and the Monkey’s Dilemma
Have you ever worked so hard that you didn’t get anything done? The elusive banana The monkey’s dilemma is a well known story about how hunters figured out a way to capture ...
READ MORE
Unnecessary Anxiety
During the late 1990s, then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan coined the term Irrational Exuberance to denote the absurdity of over-enthusiasm investors had regarding stocks – particularly dot-com stocks – ...
READ MORE
Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?
I once managed a project for a multi-site organization to implement software at each location. I held a weekly status conference-call with the company’s executives which included the branch manager from ...
READ MORE
How to Lose Business by Gold Plating
I worked my way through college waiting tables.  At one place I worked, we had a cook who treated employee meals differently than customer meals.  Customers received the standard fair.  ...
READ MORE
Consultants Give Clients a Kick in the Seat of the Pants
There are many types of consultants. Some consultants strictly give advice.  They may perform a study of the client’s internal processes, review their financials and submit a report detailing the changes ...
READ MORE
What if Your Plumber Gave You “IT” Customer Service?
Imagine a scenario where you have a pipe that leaks under your kitchen sink.  You may be an expert user of water and all things plumbing, but when it comes ...
READ MORE
Why You Can’t Be the Best
What is the best car on the road? What are the best flowers to give on Valentine’s Day? What is the best computer you can buy? At the risk of sounding like a ...
READ MORE
Old School Consulting
Some of the concepts I promote in my book and blogs could be seen by many as an old school approach to consulting. Suggestions such as showing up to meetings on ...
READ MORE
How to Deal with Emotional Clients
The 3 Ds of Client Subversion and What
Pushing Too Hard and the Monkey’s Dilemma
Unnecessary Anxiety
Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?
How to Lose Business by Gold Plating
Consultants Give Clients a Kick in the Seat
What if Your Plumber Gave You “IT” Customer
Why You Can’t Be the Best
Old School Consulting