By Matt Doyle, VP and Co-Founder of Excel Builders, a truly unique custom home builder, creating homes that make every day easier.
I work in the home construction field, so for me, the issue of maintaining client relationships during long projects is one that comes up quite often. I typically work with clients for months on end. Sometimes, there are time or supply issues that come up completely out of my control. To keep these projects rolling, I’ve had to learn how to nurture relationships over long periods.
I’ve found that all the following practices can help you maintain excellent relationships with your clients over long projects:
• Keep them in the loop.
• Design large projects to be flexible.
• Make their life easier with simple management tools.
Let’s start with one of your first priorities whenever you’re working with a client long term: keeping them in the loop.
Keep Them In The Loop
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Keeping clients in the loop can be stressful. They don’t always know how to interpret changes in timing or the order of operations, and it can lead to inefficient demands. However, I’ve found that keeping them in the dark can lead to so many more problems.
Keeping clients in the loop shows them that you value them. It communicates trust (which is now more likely to be reciprocated when there are problems) and reduces the impact when problems do need to be announced.
How can you put this principle into practice? I’ve found that there are several ways that work for almost any project. You can:
• Prepare scheduled reports that cover progress.
• Schedule video chat meetings between the client and an account manager where the client can ask any questions they like.
Customers may communicate to you the ways that they like to be updated. Pay attention when they indicate their preferred platforms, and find a way to accommodate them.
Keeping them in the loop may lead to them requesting certain modifications of the project as it moves on. You would be wise to design projects so that they can be modified from the very start.
Design Large Projects To Be Flexible
If you work on large, long-term projects, you are well aware that the priorities of clients can change in the middle of them. It’s hard to avoid these developments, so you need to make sure that the projects you develop have points where they can fork in different directions.
I’ve found that the most effective way to do this is by structuring projects with the most foundational parts front-loaded to be completed first. For example, in software development, you can do this by building the framework first and avoiding the features that target a specific use until the midpoint.
In my business (home building), the foundation is going to be literally the foundation. After that’s built, it’s still easy to make changes to the floor layout, the interior design or even whether one section will be one or two stories.
You want to make adjustments for the client as easy as possible. That’s why I recommend that you provide simple management tools to make their life easier.
Make Their Life Easier With Simple Management Tools
Management tools are an essential part of any large or long-term project. You need a place where your clients can view the things that have been delivered, review conversations they’ve had or check the progress of tasks without emailing you directly.
Fortunately, there are now dozens of different tools that you can use. Many businesses have made use of online management tools like Trello, Asana or Wrike. If you don’t need to organize deliverables, you can just handle communication with platforms that save messages, such as Slack.
Find a tool that’s right for your type of work, and develop a process for teaching your clients to use them.
Work Better With Clients Over The Long Term
Now you know some ways that you can maintain client relationships over the course of a long-term project. Remember that you must keep them in the loop, that you need to design large products to be flexible, and that you need to let them review the project as it goes with simple management tools.
By implementing these practices, you can make large projects easier for everyone to handle.