The Importance of Honesty in Client Interactions

By Robert Germain
Vice President of Client Success
Aug 22 2023 read

Have you ever found a project veering off the rails, budgets ballooning and deadlines looming? You knew your client was expecting a positive forecast, but you couldn’t offer it. An uncomfortable conversation was coming.

When you know how powerful honesty is, you’ll dread those conversations a lot less. Being honest might sound like a given, but it can often be put to the test in tough moments.

Let’s look at why it’s so crucial to maintain an honest approach, even when conditions aren’t ideal.

Why Do Clients Appreciate Honesty?

Honesty is more than a virtue; it’s the cornerstone of an enduring relationship. Clients will have a better impression of everything your business does, and everyone on your team they interact with, when the foundation of it all feels genuine.

Trust is everything in client service (and even before a new client signs on), and there’s nothing better than honesty to build trust. When you’re open, no matter what you’re sharing, clients will know they can trust you. Every time you come from an authentic place in your communication, you’re adding another vertebra to the backbone of a long-term relationship.

This bond isn’t just for the benefit of the client. It’ll also result in mutual respect that can change the way you think about the people you serve!

Transparency: Honesty’s #1 Companion

Transparency and honesty are often used as interchangeable terms, but they’re not quite the same thing. To be transparent is more about what you share and how clearly you share it. It’s essential to enhance your honesty with transparency for three reasons.

  1. Clients will want to collaborate with you. Even though clients are on the receiving end of your services, they shouldn’t feel isolated from what you’re doing. Offering visibility into their projects (ideally, via a robust client portal) can make them more willing to help your team out and share details that facilitate faster and better work.
  2. They’ll feel empowered to make decisions. With transparency comes clarity. Your efforts to be forthright can give your clients confidence in your experience and wisdom, which allows them to make moves knowing they’re supported.
  3. You can mitigate issues more quickly. When you’re straightforward about timelines, budgets and unexpected changes or roadblocks, your clients can get involved in time to right the ship.

Delivering Bad News: The Ultimate Test

Despite your best intentions, you might again end up in that undesirable scenario described at the beginning of this article. Your project could hit a snag, costs could be overrun or you may have another unexpected piece of news to deliver to unsuspecting clients.

This is no different than having to deliver bad news to a friend or family member. Honesty is truly the best policy. More specifically, you should align your delivery with the following four key elements:

  • Immediacy: If things are going south, there’s immense value in informing people right away. Delaying bad news or trying to hide it in the beginning can erode trust.
  • Clarity: Provide a clear and concise explanation of what went wrong. Use plain language, avoid technical jargon and ensure your client fully understands the issue.
  • Solution orientation: Don’t just deliver bad news and leave it there. Come prepared with solutions, or at least a plan to find some together. This shows that you’re proactive and committed.

Finally, if the situation calls for it, don’t shy away from apologizing. And as you walk through this difficult conversation, remember that you decide to be treated well in return. If you’re getting the sense that your client isn’t responding kindly or fairly, it might be time to reevaluate how you set boundaries with them.

The Best Policy

In client interactions, honesty and transparency aren’t just strategies; they’re values. By upholding them consistently, you can build strong, resilient relationships. Leading with honesty is the best investment you can make in your business’s success because it can generate recurring revenue and insulate your business.

Get access to even more client-focused advice in our weekly LinkedIn newsletter, Client Work Matters.


About the Author


Robert Germain is Vice President of Client Success at Accelo, where he manages the Professional Services, Customer Success and Support teams. With over 30 years in client-facing roles in the IT Managed Services and SaaS industries, Robert builds and mentors industry-leading teams to reach achievable yet ambitious business goals while always seeking to enhance the service experience for his clients.

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