Clients are the core of a business because a company must continue to grow and evolve to continually meet client needs. Ensuring client happiness is the best way to get them to continue using your products and services over other businesses’.
Project managers on projects that require a direct working relationship with a client find themselves in a unique position to help groom and nurture that relationship and keep it healthy.
Read more: How to Use a CRM for Project Management
Why Project Managers Interact With Clients
A project manager might interact with a client for many reasons. They may be involved early on in project discovery, providing input or even authoring part of a contract — such as for budgeting or the timeline. This is common in an agency setting, but it can be the case anywhere.
A few of the top reasons a project manager would interact with a client include:
- To be the face of the project: Being involved from discovery to kickoff, handing off all of the deliverables, managing reviews, and coordinating project launch and close makes the PM role essential to the client relationship.
- Convey details on the client, product, service, and contract details: Informing the project team on all of the details of the project and what it supports, per the statement of work, helps aid in project documentation like requirements and creative briefs.
- Manage communication with the team: This includes details coming from the client, management, vendors, and contractors to all project team members.
- Hand off deliverables and manage reviews and feedback: Scheduling formal meetings and inviting the right people to review and provide valuable feedback can be a big coordinated effort between multiple stakeholders if the project is large and complex.
- Seek repeat business: Having a close relationship with the client puts the PM in the perfect position to investigate the need for more business. If the project goes well, more work could be an easy segue into a multi-year relationship with a big customer.
- Handle project change orders when scope changes: Sometimes things change, and a PM should be ready to handle scope updates by uncovering the need and collecting details for the account manager to issue a new or additional contract for work.
How Can a Project Manager Keep Clients Happy?
Clients expect a certain level of service from a partner company, and a project manager is part of that effort, working in tandem with sales and account managers.
The PM has insight and knowledge into day-to-day progress and can anticipate issues early. This gives project managers the ability to convey relevant information in a timely manner and keep clients satisfied. PMs can keep clients in the know by:
- Reporting on metrics and analytics, including budget use
- Providing ongoing project status updates
- Ensuring high-quality tested deliverables
- Managing and being transparent with the project plan and timeline
- Staying on top of risk and potential solutions
- Expertly tracking and managing scope creep
Read more: Delivering Bad News to Your Executive Team
Tips for Communicating With Clients
Set boundaries early on, and create a cadence of communication that includes set meetings and review and feedback opportunities. Some things to keep in mind for a successful PM/client relationship include:
- Get it in writing: Confirm every ask and decision in writing, whether that is in email, messaging, hard copy, or in a digital document like Google Docs or a PDF.
- Establish clear and consistent communication: Set meetings and check-ins, and determine how these are to take place, such as on the phone, an online meeting, a recorded event, etc.
- Maintain a schedule and meeting cadence: Weekly and deliverable-based meetings are a good starting point. You want just enough of their time to keep them informed.
- Prep clients in advance with agendas: Send the meeting plan ahead of time for any presentations; this may be helpful to see before or following a meeting.
- Meet offline: Be available to meet on the phone or in person every so often to nurture the relationship.
- Ask for feedback: Check in every so often to ask how things are going, what can be improved or changed, and what is going well.
- Offer solutions: For any issue, think it through with the team and offer options A, B, and C for items that are complex or involve additional spend. There is always a way, and having a choice is empowering for clients.