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No surprises! The 5 Rules of Client Engagement

Your latest project has just been delivered to your client with all its required reports, while your team celebrates its successful completion after weeks or months of work. As project manager, you can breathe easier and turn to what’s next in the pipeline. Then the client calls. Somehow, although you and your team checked off all deliverables, the client has questions that all start with “Where is…” and “What about…” or “Why… .” Suddenly, the team celebration is not so celebratory.

Or alternatively, you and your client have agreed beforehand on the timeline, budget and schedule but then the project hits a delay or roadblock. Whether this occurs from an external cause, like a supply chain issue, or an internal one, like losing an important team member, you’re suddenly faced with informing your client that the project, its schedule, budget or all three have changed.

At Boost Midwest, we know that coordinating the different pieces of a project like schedules, goals, deliverables and budgets can be a complicated process. Sometimes, Murphy’s Law prevails and anything that can possibly go wrong, does! But delivering a smooth experience that meets your client's expectations is essential for a satisfied client and a growing business.

Boost Midwest knows that, as project manager, you want to keep surprises to a minimum for your client throughout the project timeline and at its completion. And while you can’t plan for the unexpected surprises that arise during a project’s lifecycle, you can manage client expectations to allow for them through establishing rules of engagement before the project launch.

We offer these five best practices to keep clients engaged and surprises to a minimum:

1. Document the scope and objectives of the project before you start.

As project manager, you work with your client to determine the scope and objectives for the project before the project launch. Detailing each step is key so your client is aware of how your team will meet the specific deliverable. Breaking each step into the smallest parts shows your client why it’s allotted a specific time period to complete and what issues may arise that will need to be addressed before moving on to the next deliverable.

2. Set a realistic timeline that your client is on board with.

The project schedule is the roadmap of your project. Your client may not realize the complexity involved in the project or why certain steps depend on the successful completion of previous ones. Yet not all clients are interested in the specific details of the project but only in receiving the deliverables as promised in the project timeline. So, it’s critical that you and your client agree on the timeline that you, the project manager, know you can deliver and can explain to the client the reasons for the timeline.

3. Include time for unexpected issues.

It often seems that the one issue you can count on when managing a project is that something will happen that veers things off course at some point in the project. So, by allowing extra time to allow for large or small unexpected issues is like an insurance policy against a late delivery. It helps to let the client know beforehand that time changes are not uncommon, which is why it makes sense to build in additional time into the project timeline. And then, if the project goes smoothly and is delivered ahead of schedule, your client’s expectations will have been more than met.

4. Make communication a priority.

So often we think we say something in a completely clear way only to discover later that it was interpreted differently than we intended. And vice versa! This occurs in all areas of life and is essentially part of being human. But there are ways to mitigate this when communicating with your client. Communicating clear, actionable information keeps your client up-to-date on your team’s progress and on any project details that need to be reviewed.

  • Don’t assume your client has knowledge and information.

  • Commit to a schedule of communication with your client

  • Always include the next deliverable and deadline with each communication.

  • Don’t hide any project issues or delays under the guise that your team will make up for them later.

5. Don’t promise more than you can deliver.

It’s natural to want to meet client expectations when it comes to the project schedule, objective and specific deliverables. But beware of agreeing to client requests or demands that may not be met. After all, the last thing you want is to have to backpedal on any deliverables. So, if a client tells you that a project must be completed within a time period that you, as project manager, knows is likely not to be met, remember that your client will be a lot unhappier if a goal or deliverable isn’t met as specified than if they are told up front that their request can’t be guaranteed to be met.

These best practices have proved successful for Boost Midwest when managing projects and working with project managers. As always, communication is the backbone behind all of them.

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Ready to learn more about how Boost Midwest can help you optimize your project management and operations? Schedule your free consultation call with us today using our Quick Schedule Link here.

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