Customer delight. Exceeding expectations. 360 degree feedback….there are buzzwords aplenty for the simple notions of keeping clients happy and getting feedback from them to help us improve as consultants.
But what should you actually do on a project? When you are in the thick of things, how often do you actually ask your client for direct feedback? And how often do you give the client feedback on how they are doing?! Not as often as you might I suspect!
Here’s a very simple “quality process” which I’ve found to be pretty helpful:
- Make sure, up front, that the client understands that project success is a joint responsibility. Everybody gives this lip service, but, particularly with new clients, it can help to be specific about responsibilities. For example, I need access to these people; I need this data by then and if I don’t get it, the project will slip; Client So and So needs to be on-board with the project scope and participate fully, and so on. And make sure there is someone on the client side who has responsibility for breaking down roadblocks if you run into them.
- Schedule a pure “process / quality” meeting with the key client(s) about 30-40% of the way into a project (early enough to take corrective action), with follow up as needed and an end of project debrief.
- Use a simple three question approach to structure feedback and discussion in this meeting.
- How are we doing overall?
- How are we doing in terms of content / deliverables?
- How are we doing in terms of working process?
Send these questions to them ahead of time, and get them to grade both you, and the client team on performance (a simple fails, meets, exceeds expectations scale will suffice).
It’s important that both you and client prepare for this meeting, and use the discussion to focus on the project process rather than the business issues. Make sure that you give them feedback too, and work on clear actions on both sides to correct any short comings.
You don’t need to over-engineer this. These feedback meetings can be pretty short, but I’ve often been surprised by at least one thing in the feedback and they show a commitment to process and learning that your clients are likely to appreciate.
Peter McWhinnie is a seasoned executive with over 15 years experience in consulting, first at Monitor Group where he was a Partner, and then as an independent focusing on the pharmaceutical industry. His experiences in selling and running projects, and his frustrations with trying to manage consulting engagements with traditional software tools such as Excel and MS Project, inspired him to set up the company behind Swiftlight Project Management Software