Winning a client’s project is just the beginning of a long journey, and it’s up to you to WOW them until the very end (and perhaps even past that!). While managing personalities can always be a unique challenge, implementing key concepts into your management process will ensure that your project management goes smoothly and that your client management becomes a referral engine.
1. Clear, proactive organization and communication
At the outset of any project, take some time to layout out a project plan between your team and your client. Make it known what they can expect for deliveries, when they can expect them, and what avenues of communication and collaboration will be available in the meantime. While this sounds intuitive, it’s imperative that both parties know what to expect under the working arrangement to prevent potential scope-creep.
Communicate, if not over communicate
I’ve never waited tables myself, but a former waiter once told me that, when food is delayed, it behooves the waiter to visit the table proactively and communicate the delay and ask how else they can improve the diner’s experience in the meantime. Again, this sounds intuitive, but we’ve all sat at the table when we’re waiting on food and our waiter is no where to be seen.
Your client relationship works the same way; everyone’s eager to communicate when things are going well, but your success will hinge on how you manage the unexpected turns of a project.
2. Manage timelines and expectations
Client management can be thought as two related projects: an internal project, and a client delivery project. In this way, you can view timelines as staggered end goals. Set goals for yourself internally that give you time to review and revise your work before having to deliver it to your client. This way, you’re able to ensure the quality your client expects while giving yourself a little cushion for error or delays in the process. Worst case scenario here is that you end up delivering ahead of schedule, and as the old idiom goes, “It is better to under promise and overdeliver.”
You may find opportunities in your project to expand the scope to serve one of two functions: 1) maximizing the client’s budget, or 2) strengthening the client relationship by displaying commitment towards their project.
If the scope expands, be sure to note and make the client aware of the potential costs and delays to eliminate any confusion. If the scope expansion is a “pro-bono” act as a value-add to your service, you still want to bring attention to the scope addition and project timeline alterations associated. Perhaps the biggest error repeatedly made in client relationships is doing additional work that becomes a source of blame or frustration to the client due to a lack of understanding. As soon as something is thrown in “for free,” your client will expect this implementation to go as smoothly as the remainder of the project.
3. Take time to learn
Ask your client what about your process they liked and what they would’ve to have seen done differently. Asking for feedback on how to improve shows your client that you’re as passionate about the process as your are with the results and will instill confidence that any referrals they send your way will be treated with the same (if not improved) commitment.
How to source feedback
If your engagement is with a large team, circulate a survey or a “retro” with specific areas that you’re looking to improve in while providing an area for written feedback. A smaller, more personal relationship may be as simple as meeting for a coffee or having a quick phone call. While the act of improvement is invaluable in the service industry, there’s nothing wrong with being overt about your improvement process.
Overplan, but don’t overthink
In short, while its a good thing to be as prepared, organized, and communicative as necessary for client projects, its important to realize that clients are simply looking for assurance that their project is in good hands and is moving forward smoothly. By planning and communicating effectively, you can ensure that everything as part of your digital agency project management goes right, and that you’re still under control with every little bump in the road.
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