As a Digital Project Manager, one of the main goals to ensure job satisfaction is to assist in delivering successful, quality projects to clients that remain on budget and are delivered within a realistic timeframe. A key factor in ensuring that this is the case is the relationship with clients; communication is key and there are many different elements to consider when beginning a new project and throughout its lifespan in regards to a healthy, working relationship with clients. The tips that I have outlined below, should be followed by all parties working on a project, not just the Project Manager. It’s crucial that everybody is on the same page and can work together to achieve a positive outcome.
Now, I know that sometimes it is easier said than done, but meeting up face-to-face really is more beneficial than trying to communicate via email or even occasionally, speaking on the telephone. This is particularly useful in the first instance and before a project gets started; when we hold project kick-off meeting’s at WDL, we always encourage a discussion in person. Firstly, it’s good to put a face to a name and secondly, it’s much easier to put your thoughts and ideas out there as well as possibly identify potential crossed wires or confusion from either party, at this early stage.
More often than not, emails, in particular, are written in one tone and read by the recipient in a completely different tone altogether and the message can quickly become misconstrued or the point missed completely. When things go wrong or you are faced with a challenge, bite the bullet and tell your client in person, it’ll earn you more respect. Emailing is definitely not the best form of communication and it can quite quickly become frustrating for both the client and the Project Manager which in turn, could result in a sour taste and lasting impression which is definitely something you want to avoid!
It’s crucial that mutual goals are discussed from the offset and agreed upon before any project begins to ensure that you and your client are on the same page and are working towards the same end result.
Goals, and particularly delivery timings for a project, must be realistic and achievable by everybody involved, including the clients. There needs to be an understanding from both parties that if something changes on either side, that this may have an impact on the project timeline. It’s not a blaming exercise but it’s more a case of recognising that things can change, which may have an impact on the goals that were set earlier on. The idea with the delivery of a project is to under-promise and over-deliver; however disappointing in the first instance, this approach is always going to have a more positive outcome!
In relation to the pointers above, it’s important that the Project Manager and client alike, respect each other’s time. It’s important that meetings are thoughtfully planned out and scheduled to ensure that both parties are clear when they’re happening and what they should bring to the table. It’s inevitable that there will be times when it’s difficult to come to an agreement on either a meeting date or when something can be delivered by, but following a sensible discussion and with an understanding that time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted, you should be able to get what you need.
As they say ‘patience is a virtue’ and this couldn’t be more applicable when referencing PM and client relationships. As with any relationship, there are going to be things that need work and persistence over time. There are going to be moments where you need to overcome frustrations and work together to come to a resolution. Along with patience, honesty is a key element in maintaining a successful relationship and the two go hand in hand. Honesty really is the best policy; it’s vital that both parties involved in a project are honest with each other from the get-go. If something hasn’t been explained clearly enough, encourage your clients to let you know so that processes are understood to make for a smoothly-run project and your clients should do the same; talking about and revisiting any confusions will give you both something to work on.
A notable quality of a good Project Manager is to be reliable. It’s important that the client’s needs are always at the forefront of your mind and everything you do is in their best interest. There isn’t time to sit on something which has been asked of you which ultimately needs acting upon; something which isn’t too important to you or on the top of your to-do list, may hold extreme importance to your client and their needs must always come first.
Over time, this positive, helpful manner will certainly increase your credibility, not only as a company as a result of the attentive service offered, but as a Project Manager. Your client will rely upon you as their go-to contact for future projects.