Learning to Better Engage Our Customers

Gangplank’s guest-blogging series illustrates the array of personalities and experiences embodied by our community. A variety of participants – past brownbag speakers, anchors, new members, City of Chandler employees and others – share their Gangplank stories. Interested guest posters should send a draft to our Director of Operations.

By Stephanie Liebold, Founder of Bold Avenue and Brownbag Tweeting Queen

Sometimes all it takes is one tweet to get something started.

When Digital Marketer Greg Taylor mentioned on Twitter that a customer wanted additional work – without the additional cost – it sparked several responses. The online conversation then led to an in-person discussion at Gangplank.

Alan Dayley (Dayley Agile), Greg Taylor (TMC Interactive), April Holle (Made Better), Charlene Kingston (Social Media DIY Workshop), Mike Cassidy (Leadership for Good) and I met after the Brownbag on 3/16. We talked about how each of us handles the customer engagement process from the initial contract to the final delivery, and we shared insights for dealing with challenges like Greg’s.

The importance of good communication and clearly-defined expectations was a common theme throughout the discussion.

Other suggestions that came up for different points of the customer engagement process:

Initial client meeting/consultation –

  • Think of it as you interviewing the client. Is it a good fit?
  • Find out what the client expects to get out of the project.
  • Focus on the client’s problems without jumping to (or allowing them to jump to) solutions prematurely.
  • Let the client know what to expect in terms of your process and how you work. Setting expectations at the beginning will help the rest of the project flow more smoothly.

Initial documentation –

  • Define deliverables for each project. If possible, make the end result(s) tangible.
  • Always have a contract. You may want to have a lawyer draw up a contract to use with each client.
  • Include pricing, project goals, and the summary of work to be done.

During the project:

  • Get written (email) approval for any changes.
  • Reference the documentation you provided at the beginning.
  • Follow a pattern with your communication. Will you update clients weekly? Monthly? As needed?
  • Delivering important items in person provides value to the client, offers them a chance to ask questions and gives you a chance to see their first reaction (perhaps discovering small issues before they get too big).
  • Sometimes it’s worth making a small adjustment to your terms or pricing now for the sake of the relationship going forward.
  • Other times, you just need to move on.

Ways to show a project has ended/is complete:

  • Explain in starting documentation what delivery will look like.
  • Have a final review or explain the delivery.

As great as our Customer Engagement Discussion was, it felt like we just scratched the surface, so there’s a good chance we’ll do it again.

Thanks to Alan for getting us organized, taking notes and keeping the discussion moving. And thank you, Greg, for giving voice to a common challenge and getting us talking!

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