Monday, April 7, 2008

Understanding What Your Clients Expect

I recently answered a question on LinkedIn regarding client management, and the content is relevant to Interactive Project Management. I've pasted the question and answer below for the readers of this blog, to reiterate the importance of managing client expectations - a topic I touch on in most of my entries.

Q: What are the unexpressed expectations of your customers, and how can they be brought more in line with what you will actually deliver?

A: Ultimately, any individual or team providing a service is responsible for understanding their client's expectations. As the question suggests, these expectations are not always clearly articulated, since they are often multi-faceted, and can affect more than one stakeholder. To be clear, you cannot meet expectations that you are unaware of, so the question becomes, how do you work with a client to unearth their true needs? Here are a few suggestions:

- Initiate the engagement with a thorough discovery process: Discovery is a fundamental due diligence that any service provider must execute. A discovery phase may include exploration of who key stakeholders are, their discreet business requirements, the immediate and long-term project objectives, project constraints, and how the project is tied to your client's professional profile. Working through these questions will formulate a more complete profile of their expectations.

- Be transparent: Let your client know exactly what they can expect from you. Describe your work process, mutual roles and responsibilities, and what project deliverables you will produce at the onset of the initiative. Again, this tactic will ensure you're managing your client's expectations, by providing them with an opportunity to flag concerns about your methodology or intended output before you invest a significant amount of time in the engagement.

Incorporating these strategies should help uncover and align your client's expectations with your own understanding of the project. It is your fundamental responsibility to guide your client down the right path, and you will not do so without properly understanding what they expect as well as what they actually need.

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