October 4, 2018
- Meet Face-to-Face and Facilitate a Dialogue
After we realized our client had new expectations, my team and I had an honest conversation with the client about project status. We saw the gap in expectations as an opportunity to strategically re-energize our relationship, which gave us a chance to refresh goals and our approach to achieving them.
We then had the entire project team on-site for an all-day meeting with our key client stakeholders–20 people in total. We had an open dialogue on goals and expectations, with a facilitator to guide the conversation and note project details to ensure alignment moving forward.
It’s true, we could have had the meeting over the phone, but allowing our client to meet the project team face-to-face helped demonstrate the energy, resources, and commitment that we were brought to the partnership. In their own words, they were pleasantly surprised and “overwhelmed” at the dedication of our team.
- Get to Know Each Other
Spending the entire day together in one room helped us get to know each other and make our partnership personal. Over lunch, dinner, and breaks, our team and the client shared hobbies, personal interests, and found common ground. The camaraderie from that day led to trust throughout the project. Later, if timelines were pushed or backlog accelerated, the client was confident we would deliver quality. Taking time to build relationships and appreciate the human aspect of our work translates directly to achieving business outcomes.
- Define and Document a Shared Process
Merging different processes between you and your client into a mutual, shared set of best practices ensures everyone is aligned to one mission–and can hold each other accountable.
After the on-site, we developed a comprehensive “Guidelines” document with our client’s input, turning our conversation into action. While some processes are obvious, documenting everything, including actions and owners for tasks, acts as a single source of truth throughout the project.
Documenting process is a no-brainer, especially in my role. But what I realized with this client is how important it is to do account-based documentation. You don’t need to start from scratch, but it’s important to create something personalized to the client, that speaks to the current project, rather than simply using a template. It adds a personal touch, which speeds buy-in from client stakeholders.
- Use Transparency to Creatively Solve Problems
Transparency is oft-touted, but how can you make it real with clients? I learned from this project that being fully transparent with clients about achieving business goals, appropriate resource allocation, and timelines were essential to manage expectations and solve problems together, quickly. During weekly check-ins, I talked the client through all tasks, big and small, and how they directly impact project goals. The transparency enabled us to be flexible and creative in how we resourced the project to achieve our overall goal.
In the end, these tactics helped turn our potential watermelon client into an avocado--a client that’s green on the inside, and outside!