Over the past years, I have worked with a variety of small and large institutional clients both as part of delivery and sales teams. In both capacities, the one thing I have realized—and sometimes rather painfully—is the value of keeping client stakeholders in the know. Most often, providers find it counter-intuitive to share the bad stuff with clients, assuming it would cast their abilities in negative light. Sometimes, secrecy may well be required depending on the implications to the client’s business. However, that should only be the exception and not the norm – something that most providers don’t tend to appreciate. In my experience, this is even more visible in outsourcing relationships, particularly the offshore kind. Clients naturally harbor certain apprehensions about offshore providers, especially if the relationship is not sufficiently mature. To top that, providers withhold what could otherwise build a different level of trust and understanding between the stakeholders.
The other school of thought, which I subscribe to, is about transparently sharing the good and the bad in realistic proportions. Clients don’t like surprises; in fact, no one does. If something has gone wrong, go ahead and accept it; take the extra effort to have that difficult discussion instead of avoiding it. If not immediately, clients will appreciate it in due course and possibly empathize with your constraints. Even better, if the discussion leads both parties to collectively resolve a matter that could otherwise end up in an nonviable or strenuous solution, which—in no way—helps either. Don’t forget that even B2B relationships are all about people at the end of the day, and people like to be kept informed. Also, do remember that in the prevailing internet age, the repercussions could be far too embarrassing and irreversible if the client gets to hear of the issue from other sources. That—for most practical purposes—could be the virtual end of any trust that you may have built until then.