micromanaging clients

Florabunga(z8 WA)June 25, 2006

What is a polite way of telling a client that they are dominating too much of the decision-making in a project? Does anyone have a statement that they use when first meeting a client that lets them know that they have to trust your expertise and vision, and that their micromanaging the project will ruin it's outcome and drive up the price?

Recently I had a client agree to a drawing. When I showed up with the plants, he started moving them around. We installed them where he placed them, which was in a straight line...absolutely ugly. Well, now he's unhappy with the placement and claims that's not where he wanted them. the signs were there early on, but I had no idea how to tell him to trust my judgement and step off.

How does everyone out there handle this?

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swanoir(Zone 5)

While I do not work in your field, I run up against the same problem with patients wanting to micromanage their health care. I have never found a magic statement that I can give them up front that will overcome this obstacle, because I have never been skilled enough to craft a statement that will instantly allow someone to give up their need for control and trust me.

What I have found to be effective is to assess each person specifically to see if this is going to be an issue. Then I look for and listen carefully for what is driving this need to control. In other words, once I identify that a person has this issue, I explore it by asking questions to find out why it is that they feel they need to micromanage. It is usually some sort of fear: fear that things will not be done right, fear they will be taken advantage of, fear that they will not have input, etc. Once they feel heard and understood, THEN I can build trust by beginning to address their fears and discussing my skills/operational procedures relative to that.

One of the things I have learned is that therapeutic authority is based on personal authority and personal authority is based on your level of intimacy with yourself. One of the things I hear you saying is that you want your clients to trust you  to accept and trust your authority. So, how comfortable are you with your ability to be trustworthy and shoulder authority? You mention that you could foresee that acquiescing to the clientÂs demand for plant placement was going to be problematic, but you did not assert your authority at that time. I think it would be just as useful to explore that part of the equation as it is to search for a presentation that will "make" the client trust and accept your expertise.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 1:48PM
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Did you get paid? Did you fulfill your contract? Then, walk away. With a micro manager make sure you get paid in a way that you are spending their money and not yours. I have dropped two clients in 25 years because of this as I find it an unacceptable way to do business.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 7:03PM
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When the signs of a too involved customer are present I clearly state my experience and education. I make sure they feel that the input they give me is very valueable but some aspects must be left up to me. So far after 10 years this has worked on all but one customer. I agree with inkognito and walk away on this one. The guy will probably be calling for several seasons claiming something doesn't look right blah blah blah. It will drive you nuts.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 7:46AM
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jumpinjuniper(6A Nova Scotia)

Yeah, get paid, and don't work for them again. It helps to talk to other people in the service industry, they probably know the names of your clients and have similar experiences. This is what I have run up against. I try now not to blame myself for unhappy clients because I have so many who have beautiful gardens because they listen to my advice and take care of the plants. Some people just don't know how to be good clients.

The best clients trust you, they tell you their not interested in going over details, and just to bill them when its done. In these cases I force a little bit of consultation to make sure your on the same page. It took me three years, but I can smell a bad client on the first estimate.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 12:57PM
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Florabunga(z8 WA)

If I see it ahead of time, I do not accept the job. The trouble is what to do once the check has been cut and the involvement has started. It sounds like the best thing to do is remind them of my background, assure them I will listen to their needs, but be firm in letting them know that I need to be trusted with many of the decisions.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 6:52PM
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Ok, but how do you not accept a job? What do you say at that first meeting when you smell something rotting? I have trouble shutting off the teach/sell/convert mentality. I have compiled a list of signs of bad news... but what do I do with that..."I'm sorry, I think you would be best served by someone...crappy!" (snort)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 8:38PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

All you have to do to check pricing is get estimates from other contractors.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 9:23PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

To not accept a job, you can always price it way high. They probably won't take it, but if they do, you've charged enough (hopefully) to handle the pain-in-the-butt factor.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 10:29AM
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Florabunga(z8 WA)

Wow. I have the exact problem. I smell it right away. I usually jack the prices up, and those type of people usually want something for nothing, so they don't call back. You can also tell them that you are not available to do it in 2 months. My mentors have been telling me how to backout gracefully. They say to keep it direct and vague. The customer does not need to know why, just that you are not going forward in the process. You can say "the project is not in my scope" or "I will not be moving forward on this estimate." If they ask why, you can just repeat the phrase or say "we are not a good fit for the project."

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 10:49AM
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You are a designer. You should have a plan that is a document that shows the work that is agreed upon. When there is a change, you document it in the form of a change order (often accompanied with a sketch). It should not come down to "that is not what I said".

It is amazing how fast people can get through a lot of nonsense when indecision costs them money. You need to strategize methods to support that theory and then stick to them. It is amazingly simple and nonconfrontational.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 11:00PM
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