Some clients are straightforward when it comes to telling you what they want. Others can be a little more vague with their demands. This could be because they don't really know what they want and they want you to help figure that out for them. Alternatively, they may have trouble communicating what they want because they don't understand the terms and the processes. In other cases, customers may just want someone to take a task off their hands – they may want as little to do with it as possible, so long as it's done, as so may provide minimal input.
In all cases, it's important to try to demystify exactly what it is they want. If you try to guess what they want, there's a risk you may get it wrong and disappoint them. But just how do you decipher what it is they actually want? This post offers a few solutions.Ask why they chose you
Finding out why a client chose you can help you to understand what they're looking for. Were you the first site they found on Google? Or did they compare several sites and they found yours to be the best. If it's the former option, they may just be looking for a quick and generic service. If it's the latter, they likely chose you for a specific reason, which is something worth considering when providing your service. For example, if you own a packaging design company and they love a particular packaging you designed, you could try to work with them to find a packaging style that is similar but different to this.
Give them a questionnaire
Sometimes the best way to deal with vague demands is to provide a questionnaire that can help to specify things. For example, if you run a commercial photography studio, you could consider giving the customer a personal branding photography questionnaire to work out exactly what types of photos they're looking for and what type of brand message they want to convey. If you still get some vague answers, don't be afraid to follow them up for clarification.
In some cases, clients may need to be educated on terms to help them express what they need. You may even be able to suggest things they didn't even know were possible. For example, if a customer wants you to design a 'creative website' for them, but is vague on the details of what they mean by 'creative', it could be worth planning a conversation so that you can go through various possible unique web design features with them to help them choose the creative details they want. Make the decisions for them
Some customers may not know what is best for them. As an industry expert, they may want you to make some of the decisions. While you should ask for their opinion where possible (especially when it comes to big decisions), don't be afraid to make the decision for them if they are having trouble deciding. You could suggest what you think is the best idea in your educated opinion – for example, if you craft engagement rings and a client cannot decide on the carat and cut, you could suggest what you think is best based on the style of the ring and their budget.
Play it safe – but not too safe
If a customer is being very dismissive with you and does not want to be constantly giving input, you may have to do some guesswork to ensure that you don't annoy them. These situations are not ideal – there's a high risk that you may disappoint them by essentially not reading their mind, but if they're not being co-operative you may have no choice. It's best to play it safe in these situations and provide a fairly generic and basic service. Just make sure it's not too generic or basic so that they don't think you're being lazy – consider one or two small twists if you can.