In the world of business-to-business (B2B) client services, project managers often excel at handling the technical, financial, scheduling, quality, and resource aspects of a project. However, one crucial area that often gets overlooked is actively managing client service. Simply relying on project managers to do the right thing for the client without proper planning, process, standards, or metrics can lead to an unstructured approach that may not inspire confidence in entrusting technical work products to such a system.
To consistently deliver exceptional service to your clients, it is imperative to prioritize and manage client service with the same level of dedication as other project components. Explore the following steps to adeptly navigate client service management.
The foundation of managing the service process lies in understanding your client's hidden expectations. These expectations largely shape the service experience. Conduct meetings with clients at the project's outset to establish mutual expectations regarding the working relationship. Address topics such as communication, decision-making, client involvement, information exchange, deliverable standards, invoicing, change management, and performance feedback.
After benchmarking, focus on meeting your client's unique expectations by identifying areas where their requirements differ significantly from your standard practices. Consider both your firm's practices and the preferences of the respective project manager.
Create Service Deliverables
Close the identified gaps by developing "service deliverables" that align with the client's expectations. Treat the delivery of service as you would any other work product. Define a clear set of tasks that can be assigned, scheduled, budgeted, tracked, and completed, bringing client service delivery into the realm of the manageable.
Additional guidelines for defining service deliverables include giving special attention to tasks requiring significant resources or coordination, alerting the client to the costs of special requests, and avoiding commitments that cannot be delivered.
Prepare a Service Plan
Acknowledge that client service involves time and resources like any other project task. Develop a brief client service plan that integrates with the overall project management plan. Obtain the client's endorsement to ensure the planned service deliverables align with their expectations. The plan serves as a blueprint for key aspects of the client relationship and establishes obligations for both parties.
Implement the Service Plan
Following the previous steps will set your firm apart, but without proper follow-through, these efforts will be in vain. Commit to superior service by implementing the service plan and remaining responsive to the client's evolving needs throughout the engagement. Regularly monitor service performance through internal project reviews and seek external client feedback.
Solicit Client Feedback
Regular feedback from clients is crucial for ensuring that their expectations are being met. Two recommended methods for gathering input include ongoing dialogue with a designated client sponsor who acts as a liaison, and administering a brief questionnaire or survey at the end of the project or at regular intervals for long-term clients. Use the feedback to track service trends and identify areas where improvements can be made.
By prioritizing client service alongside other project management responsibilities, you will see notable improvements in your client relationships and overall business success.
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