How to Keep Your Project Customers Coming Back for More
By Brad Egeland
Why do you keep going back to your favorite stores or restaurants or vehicles. Is it because you never know what to expect? Do you consider it to be an adventure every time you go back not knowing for sure how the food or service or quality is going to be? No. If one of my favorite restaurants suddenly becomes inconsistent with good service or good food or drastically changes their menu frequently, then I am likely going to take them out of my food rotation.
The same holds true with our project and consulting clients. They want to know what they’re getting for their money. They may be a returning client or they may be a new client who heard about you or your company from a colleague. If they’ve experienced consistent project delivery in the past – and I mean good, consistent project delivery – then that’s probably why they’re contacting you again. And if their colleague had good things to say about you from their own engagement experience, then that’s another reason why they are seeking to spend their hard-earned project dollars on you and your project team and organization. And it takes a lot for some organizations to trust and want to spend money on an expensive software or hardware implementation project.
How do we ensure consistent delivery?
How do we ensure consistent delivery from customer to customer or from implementation to implementation for the same customer? How do we show them the same quality of service every time? How do we give them confidence that if we delivered well last time, that we can do it again this time? How do we present ourselves in a way that says, “We’re professionals and we know what we’re doing every time we take on a new project”?
As a basis for continued excellent service to our customers, at a minimum we should be doing these five things for every customer on every project…
Conduct lessons learned. We’ll hit bumps in the road, but if we learn from those mistakes, then we’re less likely to repeat them and we’ll have a better chance of a more successful delivery next time.
Allow proper planning time. Don’t skip the planning. If you do, rework will likely follow. And that usually leads to overrun budgets, missed deadlines, and highly frustrated customers.
Have a well-trained and certified delivery team. I’m not saying everyone needs to be PMP certified – experience is great. But a solid team – often built on trained and certified project managers, helps ensure consistent project successes and customer retention.
Practice best practices. Don’t forget the regular practices that help your project run smoothly throughout an engagement. Weekly status meetings, weekly status reports, regular internal team meetings, and frequent attention to budget forecasting and analysis are all foundational behaviors and actions that keep your project and team on track for the long haul on the project. Make sure you’re regularly delivering revised project schedules from your online project management software tool. Show them you know how to run a project well.
Plan well for testing. Testing is so critical on the project – I can’t stress this one enough. Prepare your team well for it and prepare your client even better, because it’s really a key task for them as you move toward deployment. Make sure the proper test preparation tasks are included in your web-based project management software schedule. A well-tested solution ensures that your customer will be delivered a package that their end user can truly use.
Summary / call for input
There’s no sure roadmap to ongoing success. And the odds say that if you run several projects for the same customer, you’re likely going to deliver a lemon once in awhile. But if you’re consistent in your delivery, you plan well and show them a project management software schedule that really documents consistent project leadership, then those customers will still see the excellence in your project leadership and will remain confident in your ability to deliver the next time, and the next time, and so on. The key to customer confidence is consistency – do that and they’ll keep coming back with their project dollars.
Readers – what’s your take on this list? What’s your experience with keeping the customers coming back for more? Please share and discuss.