How to satisfy your customers and not give up your ground
Proper project management can be the very definition of a balancing act. Communication is, of course, key. Learning about over-communication can help you understand how to communicate more effectively, but keeping clients in the loop isn’t always enough to make things run smoothly. Too many blips in the project timeline can spell time delays and budget issues, not to mention bruised egos.
There’s certainly an art to customer/client relations, and the burden of performance often falls on the project manager. The skills of patience and compromise are always invaluable in achieving a common goal. Here are some project management tips for maintaining positive control and being on point with people.
Valuing each voice
Customers and clients want to know their voice is valued. In return, they are far more likely to value yours. Authentic listening can play a role in making everyone feel heard, so regardless of the decision you come to, all involved feel respected.
Whether a client is requesting a change that will impact time or budget or disagrees with a creative decision that you felt they had agreed with, letting a client speak without interruption is an important factor in successful relations, and the same goes for presuming you know what they want. Very often, a brief can be subjective especially if it is based on design. It’s possible you’ve gone in a direction the client didn’t want. For increased mutual trust, boosted productivity, and cooling down tense situations, an open ear goes a long way.
Know the difference between input and a revision cycle
Enthusiastic clients who are super-engaged with the project are fantastic. It’s great to feel the sense of partnership and collaboration. However, when your clients’ enthusiasm leads to revision after revision, or down a path that’s out of scope, you risk putting the project at risk if you err on the side of too much accommodation.
If you’ve given your client unlimited input or revisions, then you were brave! Good project management clearly defines the parameters for client input at the beginning of a project. For instance, after your client signs off on the Statement of Work or project brief, you could offer three to five client revisions for the duration of the process. If you’ve both agreed on the project scope from the beginning, holding them accountable as well as communicating where things stand and what risks changes may bring becomes a fact-based, unemotional conversation.
Transparency in this regard throughout the project life cycle helps tackle this problem before it arises.
Be available, but not at the expense of the project timeline
Once again, an enthusiastic and engaged client can be an awesome thing. But if you find that the project or your time is being bogged down by a barrage of emails, calls, or meetings, then it may be necessary to set parameters around how and how often you communicate. Adding structure means project managers aren’t continue spending their already stretched time reacting to the latest client thoughts, and it also allows for the client to gather their ideas and share in a cohesive, controlled manner rather than firing off an endless stream of spur-of-the-moment ideas.
If you’re feeling a little smothered, consider setting up a progress report or update schedule. Once a week, twice a month; whichever you feel works best to keep everyone in the know without taking too much time away from managing the actual project at hand.
Balancing the budget
Setting a cash limit on a project can seem like precisely that: a limitation. However, it should be viewed as one of the surest ways to ensure a smooth relationship between you and your client. Successful entrepreneurs maintain that if a client can’t (or won’t) provide a budget estimate at project outset, then they’re not serious and should be avoided.
A client who can put a budget in place will care a great deal that it is adhered to. It’s here that you can use the budget to your advantage, and not as a limitation on your creativity. If a client’s requests are troublesome but still within budget, that works.
If they threaten to go over budget, you must let them know. It’s likely they will back down rather than have to spend more than they bargained for.
How to stand your ground and say “no”
business is a positive sphere and saying “no” or “it can’t be done” is a hard thing to do. For many businesses, it’s important to say “no” if they ever want to break out of a cycle of doing the same work over and over again. Likewise, refusing new work now and again helps you focus on getting your current projects completed to their best.
It’s a fact that being too much of a “yes” person will kill your productivity and increase stress for all concerned. A firm but gentle refusal of a client’s wishes or demands will be in their best long-term interests. Focus depends on as few distractions as possible. If you agree to go along with everything that piles on your plate, then you’ll be sacrificing this essential aspect of your performance.
The best way to make a “no” a positive is to explain why you’re giving one. If it is necessary, make every effort to create the nearest alternative. Never respond in the negative while losing your temper or using less than positive language.
If you’re able to offer good reasons, seek a viable alternative and respect your client, then a finalizing “no” can become a “how about we try this instead?” Good project management allows you to stand your ground and turn a closed door into the possibility of a new direction.
We hope these project management tips helped. The role is a demanding and contradictory blend of firm organization and flexible people skills. In the end, it’s all about relationships, and relationships always have bumps in the road. If you take our advice onboard, you’re well on the way to strengthening client and customer relations, even through adversity.
The art of opening a hotel is what the Beachwood Custom team is all about. Partner with us and put our vast range of experience to work for you. If you’d like to get in touch with us, we’d be happy to hear from you.