Post 262 – by Gautam Shah
For a Designer, knowing a client is the beginning of a Design process. Clients come to a professional, because they need help of a skilled person but would rely on a person with predictable and socially acceptable behaviour. On the other side professionals, to profess their skills, need assignments with compensation. Clients and Professionals are mutually dependent.
Clients are handicapped persons. They have limited capacity to solve their problems, quickly, economically or efficiently. Clients, even if expert in the field, are sometimes not allowed to profess that branch of the skill. Clients are handicapped at several levels. Clients have no awareness of their needs or assets. Clients do not know who can solve their problem. Issues faced by a client are fairly complex, as things are not readily available, easily selectable or producible. Clients have no means to justify their decisions.
Clients are often incapacitated for taking certain decisions and actions by any extraneous causes (such as the Government officials), and so cannot use their own skills.
Clients wishing to hire services of an expert, have no competence of checking the suitability of a professional for the job. Therefore, a client may have to retain an intermediary to find and hire an appropriate professional. The job of the intermediary agent here is like that of any other competent and socially acceptable person, the professional.
Clients come to a professional with varying levels of awareness, as to what a professional could and should do.
1 At a very basic level a client is guided by a well wisher or friend. Such a person may not have encountered or dealt with a professional of such a type. Such clients are curious about the decision forming process, and given a chance appreciate the professional’s contribution.
2 Some clients due to their previous exposure or knowledge are acutely aware of significance of a professional’s work. These are participatory, clients, ready for intervention. Professional create situations where such clients seem to contribute to decisions, and their participation is acknowledged.
3 Clients who are well experienced and masters of their worlds, know the product and the process to achieve it, but seldom have the time or inclination for accomplishing the same. Such expert clients may consider a professional to be just a service provider, and not necessarily a unique creative person. The Professional in these circumstance is required to manage the over-interference, maintain an objective detachment, and consistently prove the professional supremacy or distinction.
4 Some clients seem to be very detached or unapproachable, due to lack of time, or understanding of the subject. The initial hesitance, however, may get replaced with sharp comments on seeing the first proposal.
5 Client representing an organization may not show distinct interest so as to limit their involvement. Their comments though may come formally and little belatedly.
Clients coming to a professional are of many types:
■ AN INDIVIDUAL CLIENT: At simplest level a client represents own-self or the family. Such a client is very real and visible in personality. Such individual clients are easy to deal being accessible for feedback.
■ SPECIFIC GROUP OF PERSONS AS CLIENT: Clients representing a specific group such as the partnership firms, private or limited companies, corporations, societies, associations, some government departments and semi-government organizations. A specific group has members who have formed the group on their own initiative, or have joined a suitable existing group. The designated leader or a small group of representatives invariably have the authority to represent their group. So collectively they behave almost like an individual client. It is not very difficult for a professional to generalize and determine the nature of the specific group as a client.
■ GENERAL (NON-SPECIFIC) GROUP OF PEOPLE AS CLIENT: These are set of people or beneficiaries, classified per certain logical norms, and are represented by a public organization, a government appointee, a public leader, etc. The members or beneficiaries need not be aware of their being a party to the group. Person/s who represent such generalized (non-specific) group functions as a client with or without their mandate. The representative of the group could be a job assigning client, in addition to perhaps approving and funding authority. The real -user client (of the project) are invisible and sometimes hypothetical. Since the hypothetical user-client is not interacting, direct feedback is not possible. In such a case, the professional has to define the identity and representative characteristics of the client. The professional is also required to predict the type of response, such hypothetical (unreal and an invisible) client would generate.
Besides these categorizations, modern day professionals have to deal with clients of different behaviour.
■ USER CLIENTS: Nominally clients are actual users or consumers. They directly use the entity created or derive the benefits from the ideas or concept generated by the professional. Such clients, if properly identified, and if can be approached, provide the right feedback.
■ ASSIGNING CLIENTS: A client could be a person just assigning the job, like a government official, but who may not use the entity created or derive any consumer benefit. Often an active citizen may generate a debate in the society for an issue, and ultimately provide sufficient leadership input to become the de-facto conceiver, convener and executioner of the project.
■ NON CLIENTS OR MULTI CLIENTS: Complex projects have no single or identifiable personality or agency to act as a client. The project gets evolved as conglomerate or a consortium of multi-lateral agencies, often with conflicting interests. There may be several part conveners, sponsors, owners. Professional as a coordinator has to serve with sheer professionalism that can be checked by any audit agency.
■ MARKETING OR OTHER SPECIALISTS AS CLIENTS: In many instances a professional is required to serve a large number of consumer clients, who remain isolated not just due to their large number and variation, but also due to their location. Definition of a client is derived by marketing or other contact specialists. These definitions are invariably very specific, though coloured by the agency that forms such views. It becomes very difficult to pinpoint the failures in the product, which may be due to either initial faulty definitions or wrong professional work. A Professional working as a client to another professional (marketing person) also gets a very precise brief to operate.
Clients are easy to deal, if are real, singular, grouped and well organized. Clients are not very difficult to handle even when are invisible or generalized, but are well defined. Professionals’ work moves very fast and efficiently, when clients’ feedback is certain or predictable. Professional out put for organized and well-defined clients is not only very relevant, but survives or functions better.