The project might be over, but that does not mean that the communication between your company and clients end. In fact, the wheels of communication should continue to spin – especially since you want repeat business and a constant flow of incoming projects.
The key is to develop and maintain an effective post-project communication strategy that will always keep your customers informed and in the loop.
Below are several top tips that will help you relieve an otherwise weighty burden of post-project communication and help you to develop a systematic approach that you can train and maintain:
Standardize, Don’t Customize from Scratch
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when developing a communication strategy is to create everything from scratch with each individual client or for each completed project. In addition to increasing the risk of human error (i.e. typos, grammatical errors, outstanding details/pertinent information, etc.) you will also spend a considerable amount of your productivity time working on emails and client correspondence.
There is nothing wrong with giving your clients a personalized experience with your correspondence to make them feel as if you care about them as a client instead of just a number added to your revenue reports.
However, you can still accomplish this goal by customizing a premade template with specific details about the client and their project(s) while saving time, reducing error and increasing the efficiency of your communication protocol.
Automated templates and general client correspondence come in handy – especially if your automated service provider allows you to make minor modifications to your templates whenever the need to so arises.
Focus on Stakeholders, Identify Key Players
At the heart of every core communication plan is a firm understanding of the people to whom you should communicate. A common error is to send high-quality correspondence to incorrect parties and irrelevant recipients just because you may have only had their contact information saved in your database.
The concept of “they will pass on the message to the right person” is not only lazy and unprofessional but is almost a guaranteed way to make sure your correspondence is never received or read by the intended party.
There are several key factors that you should consider when identifying stakeholders that you will place at the center of your post-project protocol when communicating with your clients:
- Interest & Involvement: You must determine which individuals would have the highest level of interest and involvement with your project. For instance, the Senior Project Manager will more than likely need to receive more correspondence from you than the Payroll Manager or Department Head.
- Designations: In the beginning stages of your project, there are likely several contacts that will make it clear they want to be kept in the loop. It is crucial for you to comply with those designated contacts regardless how irrelevant those contacts may seem. Remember: The customer is always right! In addition, that contact who may seem irrelevant based on their position or experience may play an integral role in the client’s standard workflow.
- Primary Objectives: You always want to pay attention to the primary objectives retained by each potential/confirmed stakeholder. Once the project is completed, there may be certain objectives that have not been resolved yet for one reason or another. By establishing a solid plan based on each stakeholder’s intended objectives, this will allow you to efficiently communicate with them to ensure their needs are met. Doing so could even open doors of opportunities for future projects that otherwise would have remained closed to your company.
Alternate Communication Methods When Necessary
Technology is great, because it can save the typical project management team a considerable amount of time, effort and resources. For instance, think about how much time is involved in sending a client a quick text message or email versus scheduling a face-to-face meeting or lengthy phone appointment. It may seem as if emails and text messages should be the cornerstones of your communication strategy. Contrary to popular belief, though, the opposite is the case.
You should make sure that you always prioritize the methods of communication that you use based on the surrounding circumstances and the intended stakeholder. For instance, even if you are best friends with the owner of your client’s company, you should never use text messages as a primary means of business-related communication.
Ideally, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI), face-to-face communication is still the best available method. In addition to being able to read body language and understand your client’s desires firsthand, it also goes a long way in retaining your client – showing them that you are willing to go above and beyond by taking time away from your busy schedule to meet with them.
Always Treat Video Conferences as Official Business Meetings
One of the biggest mistakes that you can make is to treat a post-project video conference as if it was a casual video chat with a friend or family member.
It is true that video conferences are time-efficient and cost-efficient, but still allow you to enjoy face-to-face contact to a reasonable degree. However, you should never become overly comfortable to the point where you are treating video conferences with your clients as casual communication.
- Schedule the appointments just as you would with any other meeting.
- Arrive early for the video conference to ensure that you work out any glitches or kinks that will prevent the meeting from starting early and ending on time.
- Ensure that all participants are familiar with the video conferencing process. The last thing you want is to invite a stakeholder to a video conference who has no idea how to log in or access the conference room.
Use EMail Responsibly, Avoid the Red Flags
The email message seems to be a core player of business communication in today’s digital age. Within seconds, you could easily relay an important message to a vast number of people without having to schedule a meeting or pick up the phone.
One report from March 2018 estimated that over 281 billion business and consumer emails are sent daily, according to Lifewire.
Before you become too comfortable with emails or make it a dominating aspect of your post-projection communication strategy, however, there are several red flags that you should always avoid:
- Sensitive topics should never be initially discussed via email. It is okay to follow up with a face-to-face discussion that covered sensitive topics via email. However, the initial discussion should never be conducted using electronic messaging.
- Never include something in an email that you do not mind everyone in the company reading. Sure, you may send the email to one specific recipient. Think, for a moment, about how much effort is involved with them sharing that single email with a massive crowd of people.
- Save the deep conversations for face-to-face meetings. There is nothing wrong with using emails to highlight the “headlines” or primary topics that will be discussed in depth during face-to-face meetings. However, you should never use an email to cover in-depth discussions from start to finish. In addition to looking unprofessional, you can rest assured that there will be a lot of missed, overlooked or ignored points.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
There are many ways that you can develop a high-quality post-project communication strategy for your company. The key is to focus on what works best for your specific clients and stay consistent with your strategy.
If you notice that your strategy needs to be tweaked over time, there is nothing wrong with making the necessary changes. However, your core communication strategy should always remain dependable, efficient, well-structured and consistent.