Do Clients Want the Truth?

Recent events have led me to think of the relationship between a service provider and a client. In a workplace recently I heard someone refer to a project plan for a particular client and say: "We have to stick to that project plan too, by the way."

It sounded like they were making an exception for this project plan by sticking to it rather than reminding the staff that project plans are there as a rule of carrying out a project.

I've worked in businesses where people bust a gut to get projects delivered to clients on time. In those places the management provided appropriate remuneration for staff who worked long hours to meet the demands of the clients. Management also, understanding the workload of the staff, gave the clients realistic timelines of when the work could be completed. If all the staff did their job properly the project could actually be completed on time with no or minimal overtime. If something went wrong along the way and long hours did need to be put in, management would rather take it on the chin financially (providing overtime pay for support staff and dinner for other staff) than disappoint the client.

Also I've worked at businesses that promised the clients more than the business could handle. There were no long hours spent working on completing a project. When time came to deliver all that would be handed over to the client was proof of progress. The theory there being that the client should be satisfied knowning that work is going ahead.

The client might not be fooled but is financially and temporally committed. The provider thinks they have dodged a bullet but what sort of reputation are they building?

I've heard managers say that they lied to a client specifically because if they told the truth the client would not have been happy. My instant reaction is that the manager is fooling themselves more than they are the client but, á la Carrie Bradshaw, it got me wondering: Do clients actually want to hear the truth?

If a client is told a lie and they can pass that lie on up through the chain, does that take the pressure off them? When the shit hits the fan and comes back the other way, is it easier for every person along the line to say "oh, well that's the information I was given," and pass the buck?

It seems to me there should be a responsibility in business to be honest about the delivery of services and the expectations that entails. Lying is such a short-term solution, financially. It doesn't encourage repeat business or recommendations.

But maybe I'm being too idealistic. Maybe that's not actually the way the world works. It is all too possible that the business world relies on these small time-frame based lies. Maybe honesty will cause some upheaval to the economy that I really don't understand because I don't have an MBA.

All I really know is that the job I enjoyed most was the one where management didn't feed clients or staff bullshit about expectations. I and the other staff respected those bosses and they were respected by the clients. We all worked together to bring a project in on time, we worked better as a team and we didn't resent being at work.

Perhaps that attitude will result in me branded as a communist.