Refreshed by your first eight hours of sleep in what feels like a decade, you stroll into your office, only to be stopped cold by the message light blinking on your voicemail.
It's your client, with a three-minute description of how their new shopping cart system—which you'd been slaving over for months, and finally deployed late last night—has been balking while trying to process credit card purchases. For hours. To the tune of many thousands of dollars lost in sales.
How will you resolve this issue, and how are you going to communicate a plan of action to your client?
Where we most often fail in the client management process is when, after all that work, errors still slip through—and we can't formally explain to our clients how we'll resolve them to their benefit.
Depending on the scale of your client's business, an error in project implementation could have a major fiscal impact—not to mention the drag on your long-term customer experience. Errors like the ones I noted above happen more often than we would care to admit. Most web designers understand the value of testing protocols, debugging code, and stabilizing a build in order to deploy a website or web app. But it's how we manage the errors that slip through while testing, printing, or fulfilling your design work that forges project success. Dealing with project errors in a professional manner is what defines the longevity of designer-client relationships.
Here's a quick primer on how to maintain your professionalism and protect the integrity of your client relationships when resolving these kinds of major project errors.
A Project Error in Right Field
I hate sports metaphors, but this one seems apropos.
You're watching a Mariners baseball game. Two outfielders collide while both reaching for a long fly ball in center field, thereby yielding two runs and a horde of pissed fans. That's a major error that could cost the team the game. It gets put up on the scoreboard, for all to see.
In client relationships, small errors can be smoothed over, especially if you are in a review cycle. In my mind, a major error is one that will go up on the project scoreboard for your clients and customers to see. In these situations, your relationship is in jeopardy if you don't follow a formal protocol in how you manage the error's effect.
The following is a six-step process for working through a major mistake and resolving it with your client:
- Determine your role in the error's genesis.
- Gauge the impact of the error to your client and to your project team.
- Write a plan describing how the error will be mitigated.
- Share the plan with your client, ensuring that all conversation around the error is unerringly constructive.
- Execute on the plan as swiftly as you can.
- Record the error in a public manner that helps you assess future risk and educate your peers.
In my next posts, I'll describe in depth how you can work through each of these steps to mitigate a major error.