“This was not included in the initial brief.” “The timeline you’ve given for this is too short.” “Your budget is too small for a project as big as this.” Do you find yourself repeating these sentences to your clients? We feel you. It is true that “the customer is always right” but it does not always mean they are easy to deal with. It is nearly impossible to have a successful business without building good relationships with your clients.
So how can you manage difficult clients better?
We sat down with Alex Safavinia, the CEO and Creative Director of Kasra Design. Kasra Design© is a multiple award-winning animation production company headquartered in Singapore.
We wanted to see what advice he has on managing demanding clients and retaining those clients as well. Let’s jump right into it!
1. To start, tell us what a day in the life of a Creative Director looks like for you.
Every day’s a new adventure for me. I whip up strategies and stories to match what our clients want, lead our awesome team of designers, writers, and animators, and keep tabs on the SEO and digital marketing side of things. Plus, whenever we’re on the lookout for new talent, I jump in with our managing director to help with interviews. Busy but fun!
2. Was being a Creative Director always something you wanted to do?
Not exactly. I knew I wanted to be in the design industry but did not think about the role of Creative Director that thoroughly. However, now that I’m in this position I feel blessed. It’s truly a blessing to be able to do what I love and lead a team of talented artists as well.
3. Take us through the journey of how you ended up at where you are now.
Back in 2011 when Kasra Design was founded, the idea of online video production was still a relatively new concept that was gaining traction. With my passion and background in animation, I decided to explore the idea of a production company. I noticed that many businesses were starting to see the importance of online presence and needed help promoting their goods and services on those platforms. So, I thought animations would be the perfect way to do that because who doesn’t love visually stunning moving images?
Now, explainer videos have emerged as one of the most innovative and practical methods for conveying narratives and establishing brand identity. It was a risk that paid off.
4. Are you currently working in the office or working remotely?
We do have offices. But our business is currently functioning entirely remotely.
5. Has working remotely brought about any changes and challenges in client relationships?
I think the main challenge was communication. When we meet clients face-to-face, it’s generally easier and faster to understand what they need and clarify any questions. Once it’s through emails and online messaging, it can become a broken telephone situation where messages can get misinterpreted.
6. How were you able to overcome those challenges?
Once we started taking our meetings onto Zoom and Google Hangouts, everything was much easier. Once those online meetings are done, we would usually follow up with an email to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
7. Where do you find your pool of clients?
Clients typically find us through online platforms such as YouTube, Google, and Vimeo, or through word of mouth. Many of them come back to us year after year for their video production needs. This repeat business is a testament to our commitment to ensuring client satisfaction and consistently delivering top-notch quality.
8. How do you handle numerous client briefs all at once?
I would say you have to be very organised. There are many tools out there like Basecamp and Asana to help you manage timelines and client briefs. Doing a whole calendar is useful too, plotting in production and delivery timelines.
On our team, we have multiple production coordinators who help make sure we are all on track with our production timelines.
9. What do you think is the key to balancing creative expression with your client’s business objectives?
You should always achieve your client’s objectives no matter what. Put their needs first and think of an idea surrounding it. I guess that’s where pushing creative boundaries comes to play. Creativity is expandable but your client’s objectives aren’t.
10. With cancel culture so prominent in the new generation today, how do you ensure your creatives are culturally and socially sensitive and respectful?
Just be mindful of language and any imagery used in your content. Think about how these might be interpreted by people of different cultural backgrounds and whether they could be potentially offensive or insensitive. Avoid stereotyping and biases. If ever you receive negative feedback on your content, take responsibility and apologise before taking steps to correct the issue and ensure it doesn’t happen again in future projects.
11. Do you have an instance where you faced an unhappy client? Share with us how it went.
Yes we have, we had a client who was unhappy with the final result of a project. First, we apologised for the issue and tried to resolve the situation by understanding what they didn’t like about it and what we could do to make it better.
Internally, I would also discuss with my team on what went wrong and how we can prevent it from happening in the future. However, when dealing with the client do note to keep it brief and try to sort it out quickly and delicately. The longer it lingers it might prevent you from giving more attention to other clients. So find a win-win solution that can benefit the both of you quickly.
12. What is your trick to preventing yourself from turning into a Hulk when you face difficult clients?
Managing your emotions requires intentionality and proactivity. Always prepare yourself before talking to difficult clients. Even when you’re frustrated, do whatever you can to remain calm and professional. I tend to take deep breaths so that I can stay in control and think of what to say better. If it is an angry email, do not reply right away.
Take your time to cool down and reply in a professional manner. You are the face of your company, so anything you say or do will have long lasting consequences. You have to do anything you can to prevent bad reviews.
13. What does success mean to you?
For me, success is being able to deliver top-tier animations to our clients, leading more industries to recognize the transformative power of animation. And naturally, it’s also reflected in our annual revenue staying in the millions.
14. Could you share with us your secret to retaining clients and ensuring they always come back?
I believe if you produce good work and maintain good customer relationships, your clients will always put your business as their first choice. So for every project we do, we make sure we put effort in building those relationships and give our clients only our best work and ideas.
15. What is one thing you learnt recently about building a business?
Don’t be afraid to say no. We are not superheroes. We can’t always do everything a client says. This is where managing expectations comes into play. When you manage to understand client needs, manage their expectations according to their objectives and budget, your clients should leave satisfied.
If it’s a busy season and you notice your team potentially suffering from a burnout, either hire more to meet the demand or turn down some projects. The success of a business is not just about the clients you get but the quality of the team you are building.
16. Lastly, who are some animators and designers you currently seek inspiration from?
Currently, it would be Nick Park because I’m a huge fan of the Aardman animations since young. But usually, I would just jump into motionographer and stash magazine website to see works from different designers and animators to gain inspiration.
Navigating the world of demanding clients and sticking to your company’s goals can feel a bit like juggling while riding a unicycle. But hey, we’ve dived deep into this challenge in today’s chat with Alex Safavinia and found some real gems of advice.
The key? It’s all about understanding, flexibility, and some good old-fashioned clear communication. As the world of business keeps shaking things up, the tips we’ve shared today might just be the lifesaver you didn’t know you needed. Making clients smile while staying on course isn’t just a talent—it’s the mark of a business that’s really got its act together.