Posted by: Craig Harding | November 11, 2009

Educating Clients & Managing Expectation

Educating Clients & Managing Expectation

You have completed the Charter and given it to the client. Despite all your good planning efforts, the client responds by identifying some internal expectations that are in clear contradiction to what is in the charter. What will you do?

Educating Clients & Managing Client Expectations

The key to being successful is managing the client’s expectations from the beginning to the end of the project. That is easy to say, but it is not always easy to do. We all pride ourselves on having excellent relationships with our clients. Sometimes, however, we are so concerned with customer satisfaction that we are tempted to agree to things the client asks for that are not really within the scope of the project. When that moment comes, we have to step back, assess the impact on all resources, and educate the client about what is and what is not within scope, and then negotiate a solution. If we silently accept small changes in scope in the beginning, we are not only failing to manage scope, we are also stepping onto a slippery slope. It will be much harder to recover later on. Remember: A successful relationship entails the mutual satisfaction of needs. A relationship is not successful if one party benefits at the expense of the other.

When you need to Manage Expectations and Educate your Client

As we said, you’ll need to manage client expectations throughout the project, beginning with the Statement of Work. Whenever you assess that the client’s expectations are different from project team’s, the education process must begin.

Your Role in Managing Expectations and Educating Clients

 As Project Manager, you’ll be responsible to:

  •   Set expectations about Scope in the SOW and Scope Definition Statement
  •   Clearly define roles and responsibilities
  •   Monitor those roles to make sure they are being fulfilled
  •   Educate clients about the project methodology being followed
  •  Educate clients about change control and procedures

Acceptance criteria for Educating Clients

When it comes to relationship building with customers it is important to realize that all people have three kinds of needs:

  •  Social Needs
  •  Security Needs
  •  Results Needs

At any one time, one kind of need may be more important than the others. When people feel that one (or more) of their needs are not going to be met, barriers to relationship arise. Those barriers include:

  •  Defensiveness
  •  Tension
  •  Self-interest

 When those barriers arise, we need to be able to listen, ask questions, and build bridges across those barriers. The three bridges are:

  •  Trust
  •  Empathy
  •  Understanding

 The above is true for your client and your team members alike. The next time you sense a barrier rising, move to build a bridge. It doesn’t work to ignore the problem and hope it will go away, to stonewall, or to become aggressive and try to beat down the resistance you are encountering. Only when you understand the client’s need can you start building a foundation of trust and understanding. Once you have a sturdy foundation, continue building the mutually beneficial relationship by educating the client and re-setting expectations appropriately.

A sign of proficiency is when you can say “no” to the client when you need to (to enforce the rigors of the project management methodology being followed) in a way that doesn’t “beat up” on the client, but actually improves the relationship because the needs of both parties are being addressed. Remember that developing these skills takes time. If you sense that your skills need improvement, seek out a colleague or mentor who will work with you to help you improve and give you real-time feedback.

Cheers,

Craig

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