When you are in a client facing role, your biggest challenge is to make your client happy, while being reasonable to your team and the current business environment. We can easily make the client happy by making promises that exceed their expectations but before you make those promises, you have to analysis if it is a “reasonable” and “feasible” one.
I always say that a project manager should have loyalty towards its team slightly higher than the client. Because in the end, it is the team who will make the project work. And, when the project delivers the desired outcome, it ultimately makes the client happy. So, being more on the side of the team is a win-win situation for all the stakeholders.
Having said that, we all know that “Customer is the king” and your success as a project manager will be measured by how happy your clients are and how much they want to do repeat business with your organization.
So, you have to make a perfect balance between the client and the team.
And, you cannot run away from the fact that Project Management is more about the other aspect of PM i.e. People’s Management.
Key things that you can keep in mind to make your clients happy with the work you do:
1. Align expectations:
Without a doubt, the number one on my list is to align the expectations with the client. Sometimes what seems less important for us, is indeed more time critical of the client. So, before you share the delivery timelines, it best to understand the expectations of the client.
This does not mean that you have to stick to exactly what the client said. You definitely need to check with the team and come up with the “feasible” timelines, cost and the project outcome. But, if you know the expectations, you can work around with other projects to prepare something that is somewhere in the middle.
For instance, in order to make the process organized, you might plan to club a few deliveries together but the client might expect to receive a few deliveries sooner than others. It will end up misalignment and dissatisfaction. So, before you plan the deliveries like this, align with the client and make the exception plan, if needed.
2. Keep transparency:
We tend to sometime hide the real background story from the client in order to give them a picture-perfect scenario. But, we all know, including the client, that behind smooth progress of a project there are lots of actions happening in the background – prioritization, resource planning, and management, dealing with unforeseen issues and risks, and many more.
So, the intelligent move is not in hiding from the client what’s happening in the background rather it is about keeping them informed about the real situation in a professional way.
For instance, if any project requires one day more of the QA, then let the client know about it and buy some extra time.
3. Be proactive:
As a project manager, you are the first point of contact for the client. Sometimes, you might sense that something in the project is not going well or need a bit of rework or improvements. Instead of waiting for the client to come up with the request, be proactive and give suggestions and recommendations.
When you are proactive in your approach, you come across as involved, dedicated, reliable and a hands-on project manager.
4. Keep your promises:
It is kind of basic, still, the most important factor that determines the satisfaction of the client. I believe that it holds true not only in the work environment but also in life at general ? Take time to analyze all the aspects before you make any promises. But, when you make one, keep it. As simple as that!
For example, when you share the timelines with the client make sure that you have analyzed all the aspects and added sufficient buffer to it. And, in case you sense that you might end up not meeting your timelines, let the client know well in advance because he might have scheduled some event based on the delivery.
Also, if the client has requested a certain feature in the product, make sure you align with the team to analyze the feasibility before you confirm to him. Because once you make the promises, you have to keep it.
5. Accept the fault:
And last but definitely not the least, always have the courage to accept your fault. We are humans so we cannot be immune from making mistakes. If you land up in a situation like this, do not try to defend yourself with unreasonable arguments. If you do so, you will come across as a stubborn professional.
The correct approach is to listen to the client, accept your fault, apologize on the behalf of the team and assure the client that a similar mistake will never happen again. And then, try to find the solution and redeem yourself!
If you understand that behind the “client” is a normal human being who wants to be heard, informed, and want to make his life easier and clutter free, you will automatically start trying to provide them all they need.
Also, as every human being is different, every client is different. So, always have a customized approach for each of the client that suits them the best. For instance; some client prefers to get status on emails and some prefer to do quick calls. So, do what it takes to make them feel easy and comfortable to work with you.