The five-minute guide to 5-star client service

The Five-Minute Guide to 5-Star Client Service

Strategies to improve your client service

Five-star service can mean many things to different people. For some, it’s providing the right information at the right time. For others, it’s the philosophy of “service with a smile,” which means never letting your teammates or clients see how tough a challenge really is.

My approach to client management has been gradually refined by the many diverse projects I’ve worked on over my 20 years in the industry. However, several key strategies have led to satisfied clients no matter who I’m working with or what I’m working on.

If you’re trying to keep clients happy and your team working together despite mounting challenges, you need these four strategies in your toolbox.

  1. Make big things seem small
    Don’t let new challenges or tasks overwhelm you. A bigger task or challenge is simply a series of small, deliberate steps. By breaking it down, you’re able to plan each one out in smaller increments and demonstrate to your clients how you can achieve it.
  2. Keep chaos behind the curtain
    Imagine yourself behind the security of a kitchen wall while preparing a high-end meal for a table of VIP guests. Everything must be prepared flawlessly, arrive at the perfect temperature, uphold your restaurant’s commitment to excellence and delight the customer. No diner wants to see the chaos that’s involved in the creation of their meal. Make sure clients only see the finished product, or a polished work in progress, and not all the long email chains nor unexpected challenges that were necessary to produce it. If something important goes south, let the client know as soon as you can while offering an alternative plan of action to accomplish the original goal.
  3. Adapt to your conditions
    The serving line at a five-star restaurant keeps working no matter what happens. When I bring on new team members or introduce new processes, I always remind everyone about the value of being adaptable. No matter how well prepared you are, you will run across people not pulling their weight, products not arriving on time, difficult personalities and milestones not going as planned. The only thing you can control is how you react.
  4. Listen to the client
    Listening with an empathetic ear can smooth over even the toughest situations. Instead of imposing your expectations on the client, listen and observe what they truly want and deliver on those expectations. You may like your steak cooked a certain way, but the client may request chicken. Deliver what they are paying you for: your expertise, ability to make things run smoothly and passion for top-notch service.

I’ve used these four strategies to create better than expected results, which consistently leads delighted clients and teams that function calmly and efficiently. By cultivating adaptable team members with a willingness to listen, you create an environment where positive things happen, challenges are overcome, and problems are fixed without the client being involved in the day-to-day work. When you produce quality work and deliver the best service, your entire team is bound to reap the rewards of a strong client relationship.

What strategies do you use to impress clients? We’d love to hear them.

vendor management, vendor relationships, successful project

6 tips to improve your vendor relationships

Six Tips for Improving Your Vendor Relationships

Vendors are a critical part of every project’s success. Here’s how to keep them happy.

By Stephanie Hamilton, Senior Project Manager

Every project manager has a story about a time a project unexpectedly went sideways after an unforeseeable delay.

My story involves a large multi-floor high rise project that was on schedule until a delivery of key lighting components landed on back order. We were under the gun to meet landlord leasing terms, deliver the project on time and on budget while keeping this difficult client happy.

To stay on track, I asked the team “What can we do to work around this challenge?” This question launched us into a discussion that ultimately landed on a solution that left everyone satisfied.

Here are six things every project manager can start doing today to help your team, vendors included, work together through your next difficult problem.

  1. Value their time
    We all lead busy lives and have lengthy to-do lists. When you hold a meeting with your vendors, make sure it is productive, on time and to task. Don’t be afraid to speak up, reel in the chatter and get back on track. When you respect your vendor’s time, they are more likely to respect yours.
  2. Keep them informed
    Make sure your team is kept up to date on schedule changes, product delays and overall scope definition. When you hoard information, you prevent your vendors from performing to their fullest, delivering on time and feeling like part of the team.
  3. Ask for opinions
    When I start up a new team, I always ask the same simple question to encourage vendors to share their knowledge: What do you think? Getting to know everyone’s opinion makes the team stronger, the project more successful, and leaves the vendor feeling like they made a strong contribution.
  4. Bring in the most outspoken person last
    There is always one person in the room that is more eager to give their opinion. Try waiting until there is one minute left in the meeting before you ask for their feedback so other people can get a word in. This will also encourage them to present their input in a condensed, concise fashion.
  5. Ask about challenges, not issues
    Instead of asking what issues vendors are having, try digging into the challenges they’re encountering. For example, a vendor might volunteer that they’re having a challenge with product delivery, and suggest changing manufacturers. By turning this thought process around, it gives the team an opportunity to develop a plan and quickly execute it.
  6. Treat those around you like you would like to be treated
    Remember that people are people, not titles. When you build teams, think about how to create a cohesive group instead of focusing on the organizational hierarchy. From the COO to the delivery truck driver, always remain friendly, courteous and professional. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they had for lunch or how their daughter’s graduation went. You might be surprised how simple questions grow relationships.

When our lighting components were delayed, I depended on the resources and ingenuity of our team of vendors to come up with a way to keep the project on schedule.

Working as a team, we looked at all angels of escalating the delivery of the product and different ways of managing the manufacturer.  Unfortunately, this path was too costly and would take too much time to obtain.

But then a non-lighting team member suggested we look at a different manufacturer with a similar product. That supplier’s parts were local, less expensive and could be delivered ahead of schedule.  This simple suggestion ended up being a brilliant idea which kept us on track, saved money and adhered to the client’s high standards. And it all happened because I encouraged our team to think outside the box.

Without buy-in from your entire team, vendors included, meetings can stall, projects can flounder, and clients can become unhappy. By encouraging team members to speak their minds, offer solutions and not dwell on the impossible, you can come up with workable solutions for almost any type of problem.

How has your relationship with a vendor helped you lead a project to success? Share your story below.