Every successful client manager knows the importance of creating and keeping an honest relationship with clients.
In today’s business world, the stakes are high – budgets are strict, expectations are high and deadlines are tight. You need to juggle it all in order to keep your clients satisfied in a world of customer-first mindset. But the results are well worth it – successful project management gains clients by word of mouth.
Promise Only What You Can Keep
The client wants to know the project basis right away – how much will it cost and how long will it take. The stats say that their expectations are optimistic. According to Gallup, only 2.5% of companies successfully complete their projects 100%. When it comes to IT projects, numbers are even more shocking: according to Harvard Business Review, the average overrun is 27%, but one in six projects had a cost overrun of 200% and a deadline overrun of around 70%.
One of the worst things you can do is set unrealistic expectations and then, obviously, not deliver them. That’s something that makes or breaks a client relationship.
It’s always safer to aim a bit lower, and then over-deliver. You might think it will disappoint your client, but keep in mind that delivering on time and exceeding expectations is a road to reliability and client satisfaction.
In fact, as humans, we’re susceptible to a “planning fallacy” phenomenon, which means we’re biased toward underestimating the time needed for certain task completion. This happens because we don’t take into consideration the possibility of unexpected disruptions happening that could prolong our work.
The first step in establishing realistic expectations is to think through things that could go wrong. It’s not a pessimistic thing, but quite realistic and client-responsible. Unexpected situations happen – whether a team member gets sick and takes a long leave, your team encounters a new and rather difficult problem they struggle solving, or simply, the client isn’t happy with a part of the project.
These aren’t anything unordinary, and you should always be prepared for them with possible solutions – like having extra staff members to step in or having enough time and budget for possible project changes.
Track the Time Spent on Projects
Whether you charge hourly or by fixed-rate, you still need to know how much a project is costing you, so that you can properly bill your clients. The problem is that we too often overlook billing some of the project-related activities, like meetings, email, task organization, team communication, etc. They don’t always seem like much, but minutes add up to hours, and unbilled hours add up to an unprofitable project.
In order to keep your clients feel like they’re in the loop, you need to have constant check-ins with them, and that time should always be tracked. Whether or not you’ll charge for the communication is up to you, but for the sake of proper project estimation, it’s important to know where your time goes.
You should use an automated work time track to capture time spent on every project-related task, whether you usually bill it or not. That way, you can identify inefficient processes, as those limit your team’s productivity.
Use this job time tracking app to keep track of time spent on projects, as it breaks down work into tasks that are then assigned to team members accordingly. This is done automatically, and nothing is forgotten since your team members don’t need to clock in the time they’re spending on the project.
With a work time track tool, you have control over your team workload. You can see who’s working on what at every moment, which helps you see who has extra capacity to take on another task and who’s overburdened and is close to burnout.
Furthermore, this tool shows every team member’s activity, which allows a quick team collaboration, as well as gives you a good overview of their workload, so you can plan in advance who to assign on the upcoming project.
Creating a Data-Based Project Estimation
Let’s be realistic – project estimation is always guesswork. But, the more it’s based on past project time tracking data, the more approximate it gets.
This is where your past projects’ work tracking data is invaluable. The total hours of a similar past project are a good rough estimate of this project’s deadline. However, it’s important to look into how many hours have team members spent working on that project, by their department. This will also be important for project cost estimation, as team members from different departments don’t have the same hourly rate.
As previously mentioned, it’s always better to under-promise and then exceed expectations. Therefore, with possible delays in mind, we should always leave up some extra time and push a deadline a bit further.
And then there’s project cost estimation. To charge more than it costs you to do the project – it’s a rule of thumb and goes without saying. After all, in a business world everything revolves around the profit, right?
Estimating the cost of a project is in a direct line with its time estimation. You have to keep it in line with your most valuable resource – workforce. Therefore, the cost basis is your time estimation multiplied by team members’ hourly rates.
The Bonus Tracking Feature
Some work time track tools offer a client login feature, which is an invaluable asset in keeping the whole project progress transparent. This way, your clients have gated access to all the data relevant to their project – the timeline progress, what team members are assigned on it as well as the budget. This saves your valuable time you’d otherwise spend answering their emails and talking long hours on the phone.
Meeting client expectations is what makes or breaks the business. It all comes down to your project management skills, which in turn, depends on you knowing your team’s capabilities. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your project estimation skill. It’s an ongoing process and gets better in time.