Successful businesses leverage several daily internal processes across multiple departments to keep everyone moving in a forward direction. From HR to accounting, there are established protocols in place to facilitate smooth and timely departmental functions. And yet, many businesses fail when it comes to the most important process opportunity of all…the process of managing clients.
My organization produces automated demos; and, while the demos we produce are professional and generate the desired results, it is our process that keeps our clients returning over and over again. “Because of the consistent and predictable process, my team knew upfront what they were expected to do and when it needed to be completed. This structured process results in our demo projects being completed on time, every time,” confirmed a marketing director for a leading healthcare software organization who has been involved in multiple projects with our firm.
The process we leverage keeps everyone—on our side and our client’s side—aware and on-point every step of the way. Regardless of the type of business you mange, implementing an effective process can be as easy as applying the following three steps.
Step One: Set specific and clear objectives
This goal may seem like a no-brainer, but it is often overlooked or taken for granted at the forefront of a project. What are your client’s objectives? Request that your client list their objectives and confirm which stakeholders will have final approval on all final deliverables. Make sure everyone understands the entire process and knows what is expected in the coming days or weeks.
If you need specific direction from your client, it is best to have documents that require them to define necessary directives. Sample documents are extremely helpful and offer clients an easy and accessible way to complete the documents.
Our sample documents are an imperative part of our process. “I received the most value from the pre-set timelines and sample content outlines provided prior to the kick-off call,” agreed one of our recent clients who was the team leader on a project we completed for a national airline, “The sample documents made it immediately clear what was needed from our side of the table.”
As the process continues, these documents will help keep everyone focused on the original goals. Whether the final deliverables allow for flexibility of the goals along they way will be determined by you.
Step Two: Mange client reviews at each major milestone
Major milestones are points in the project where client feedback and approvals are needed from the necessary stakeholders before the project can continue. Client input at each major milestone of the project is crucial. If you do not receive approvals from the appropriate stakeholders then you are taking a huge risk which could cause lost time and wasted effort. When you move forward on a project without the client feedback from the project stakeholders, you may end up having to revisit and recreate portions of the project that you assumed were good-to-go.
The stakeholders who are responsible for signing off on the final project deliverables need to be identified at the start of the project. Once the project begins, these stakeholders must be notified when their input is needed. Depending on the scope of the project, it is your responsibility to define major project milestones.
Step Three: Follow Up
Many organizations make the mistake of falling short when it comes to follow-up. Just because a project is complete and invoices have been paid in full doesn’t mean the process is finished. Follow up is an opportune time to learn more about your client’s needs to secure future repeat work.
My company leverages an online survey that is emailed to clients immediately following their final project deliverables. It is short and sweet—five quick multiple choice questions about their experience working with us and a comment box at the end in case they want to send us a message. It also includes a gift offer as our way of saying thank you for working with us (they get to choose a Lands End polo shirt, ceramic mug, or ball cap all with our logo).
Follow up responses are automatically generated from the online survey and forwarded to the respective sales person, project manager, and our CEO.
Creating a process for working with clients is a key component of an effective business model and crucial if you are trying to build a loyal customer base. According to one of our frequent clients, our process promises that, “…there are no surprises when the project is finished. It is exactly what we expect because we’ve had continuous communication from the kick-off meeting through final review.”
Comments like this illustrate why we have the repeat business that we do; the process eliminates confusion and misunderstandings while reinforcing who is responsible for each task at every stage of the project. What better way to insure return business than to provide your clients with a streamlined production and delivery process that they can count on every time?