Usually when we talk about engaging with clients, we start listing tangible deliverables they should expect from a project, from the initial draft schedule to the final product design.
When you start a project, conversations should be only about what clients require from us. It's also about what we expect from them. The best way to do this is to define the rules of engagement for your clients.
The following expectations are completely fair to request from any new client:
- Direct dialogue
- Respect for process
- Accommodation for human error
Now, you can't just send this list to a client and say, "Hey, now you're going to respect my process!" If you don't tell your client up front about your expectations for their behavior, you're scolding them for things they never knew they needed to do.
So provide to your client in writing your rules of engagement. It only needs to be one page, which includes at least the following:
- The type of feedback they need to provide, and when
- Who is assigned to collate their feedback (that isn't your job!)
- The frequency and consistency of client contact: whom will respond, when, and how
- What will happen if errors should occur
- Whom the key decision makers are, and when their input is required from deliverable to deliverable
Not meeting expectations, stated or unstated, is one of the major reasons that client relationships fail. So don't let that happen—state up front what you require, and the project will always run a little more smoothly as a result.
Thanks to Erica Goldsmith for collaborating with me on this post.