How to Avoid Problems Between Consultants and Clients

Consultants are hired to solve problems. But what happens when there’s a problem between a client and a consultant?

While most consulting projects are positive experiences for everyone involved, problems can arise when the client and consultant have different understandings about the “scope” of the project.

In a nutshell, a consulting project’s scope is what the client gets for their consulting fee. In other words, the scope defines all the services and any products the consultant will provide to the client. It is important that both the client and consultant agree about what is needed for the project to be complete.

For example, if the consultant believes a project is complete when he or she submits the final report, it is essential the client know that – and not be expecting the consultant’s fee also includes the consultant helping the company implement the report’s recommendations.

The time to establish the project scope is at the beginning of the project. One of the best ways to avoid potential misunderstandings is to have a written agreement. Depending on the size of the project, an agreement may be a simple letter of understanding or a lengthy contract.

But even with a written agreement, acting in a spirit of goodwill goes a long way towards avoiding problems and can help with clearing up any misunderstandings along the way.

If you belong to a professional consultants association, they may have guidelines to assist their members in being of service to clients. If you don’t belong to a consulting organization, you can develop your own set of principals to guide you in your consulting business. Below is a set of recommended guidelines which you can use as a starting point.

As a professional consultant, I agree to:
o Conduct myself in a professional manner.

o Accept only work I am capable of performing competently.

o Disclose any potential conflicts of interest.

o Charge reasonable fees for my services.

o Provide all agreed upon services in a timely manner.

o Treat clients, employees and other business associates with respect.

o Maintain client confidentiality unless disclosure is authorized by the client or required by law.

o Strive for high levels of client satisfaction.

While guidelines won’t guarantee that all your interactions with clients will always go exactly as planned, they can help you avoid potential problems that could cost you time and money.