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Project Management

Three Simple Ways to Keep Your Clients Happy

Stephanie Gonzaga
December 4, 2014
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For more advice on how to get started in project management, check out our free Guide to Project Management.

Do you feel caught in a tug-of-war between managing your project and managing your client relationships?

Many project managers struggle with knowing when they need to step in and when to keep to the sidelines.

If you check in too often, you become a nuisance to both your team and your clients. If you check in infrequently, you may be seen as disinterested and irresponsible.

You want a balance where you can support your project team and keep your clients happy. You want to position yourself as the project manager who steps in to help while giving everyone their time and space to do their work.

Clients are actually very busy people.

Clients are especially sensitive to when and how you approach and communicate with them.

Being a client is a very busy job with so many people and obligations vying for attention. It’s why project managers consider it a near blessing when their clients give a bit of time and attention to discuss project information.

If you want to build thriving relationships with your clients, you have to set up good communication lines as early as the start of the project. Moreover, you need to season the relationship in a way that your clients will feel comfortable (excited even) when it’s time to sit down for a project meeting.

How to make your clients happy

Building good client relationships means more than simply wooing with flowers and chocolates. It requires authenticity, transparency, and courage when there’s a need for it.

Here are three unique ways to make your clients happy while setting the stage for your project team to work at their best performance.

And if you feel unsure or uncomfortable just thinking about it, trust when I say that these tips have more to do with your approach and attitude towards clients as individuals than as professionals you have to answer to.

Tip #1: Be personal. Be yourself.

The client-PM relationship isn’t just a professional transaction. It’s a long-term relationship based on trust and respect, and sometimes all it takes to establish this is to be yourself.

You can start your conversations by asking light personal questions, such as:

  • How are you? How was your business trip to Bali?
  • Do you play sports? What are your hobbies?
  • What’s your favorite restaurant? We can have our next project meeting there!

You can share your own stories and experiences, so your client sees a glimpse of the you behind your role as project manager.

Tip #2: Listen to your client.

It’s so easy to get through a project meeting in routine: you meet at the office, start the discussion, take notes, document, and share a .docx file of what’s been discussed.

While this is efficient, it causes you to miss insight that may be valuable to the project.

To capture all of that important information, you need to be a better listener.

Being an active and mindful listener forces you to focus intently on what your client is saying. You understand him or her deeply and are fully engaged with the project at hand. As such, you are much more capable of doing your best work.

Tip #3: Be an educator.

Bad client decisions are often caused by a lack of understanding of what has been done and of the major deliverables.

Instead of just presenting the deliverables to the client, educate them about the process that went into creating them and how it fits within the project scope. Explain what each member of the project team did for each task so they would understand the timelines and dependencies necessary for the project.

Aim to build thriving client relationships

When communication, transparency, and trust are established early on, your client relationships will always start and continue on a positive note.

This level of openness makes it easier for you to manage and support your team while keeping your clients happy and informed.

Want to know the secrets to a happy and open client relationship? Check out Chapter 6: Managing Projects, Helping Clients of A Guide to Project Management by Brett Harned.

Project management milestone examples

Milestones make it easier to keep projects on track by calling out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables. Here are a few examples of project milestones you might include in your plan:

  • Start and end dates for project phases
  • Key deliveries
  • Client and stakeholder approvals
  • Important meetings and presentations
  • Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline

Let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 specific examples of how using project milestones can benefit your projects.

Monitor deadlines

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables project milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top-level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose because they’re called out in a special way—usually with a diamond—in project plans.

While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.

Here's an example of how Washington Hyperloop uses milestones to track an important deadline in their project.

Spotlight important dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will need to be out of the office for a mandatory training. Maybe there’s a board meeting you’re expected to attend.

It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.

date milestone in gantt chart

Identify potential project bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.

That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of what that might look like for a client approval.

deliverable milestone in gantt chart

Want to hit major milestones on time more often?

We’ve got a free class to help you get everyone on board with your plan! Register for Plan Up: How to Create and Sell a Winning Project Plan to see why planning sets the stage for project success, and get a free Guide to Project Planning when you sign up.

How to create a project milestone

Creating milestones for your project plan can be simple, especially with TeamGantt. Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can easily add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Adding a milestone (or converting a task to a milestone) is very easy in TeamGantt.

Once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account, here’s a quick video on how to create milestones:

Project milestones are easy to create and even easier to track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project.

How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders

Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Simply follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.

1. Filter your project by milestones.

From your gantt chart view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.

filter gantt chart by project milestones

2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.

Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.

export gantt chart with project milestones to PDF

Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.

share PDF of gantt chart filtered by project milestones

Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?

Hit every project milestone with ease

TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.

You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.

Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍

Give TeamGantt a free try today!

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