In a competitive business like mobile software development, it’s very important to keep your clients happy and informed. Happy clients usually lead to more clients. Whether it’s repeat business or a perfectly-timed referral, a satisfied client is of the utmost importance to any organization. So, how can we keep our clients happy? Aside from simply doing great work, client happiness begins and ends with great communication.
Often, your clients won’t be nearly as tech-savvy as the developers that they hire. (If they were, they might just build their own apps instead of hiring you.) This adds complexity to the communication process — clients may not want to hear every single technical detail explained, but they do want to understand what they’re paying for. Rather than baffling your clients with overwhelming technical jargon or leaving them completely in the dark with no information, here are four ways to strike the careful balance between involving your client on technical matters and independently handling the sophisticated work that they hired you to do.
Clients are very smart; they just speak a different language than us. Usually, a client’s business skills and experience rivals (or even exceeds) the developer’s equivalent technical skills and experience. Clients are very inquisitive about their project and want to understand the process. In our desire to appease their curiosity, we often end up creating new questions with each explanation. We have found that the tech-savvy mobile developer and the business-savvy client can understand each other best through metaphors. Here are some examples that have worked for us:
Building a House
This metaphor is very flexible and can be used for almost any sequential work, for instance:
- The need to finalize detailed plans (architectural drawings) before laying the foundation.
- Making permanent decisions carefully, thoughtfully, and upfront. (You can’t change the location of the front door halfway through the building process of a house.)
- Having a sensible, logical order within the building process. (You can’t change your mind on the electrical and plumbing work after you’ve already covered it with drywall.)
Running a Marathon
This metaphor can be used to describe the last push when wrapping up projects.
- Finishing strong and finishing on time. (The last mile of a marathon is often the most difficult and the most important. Obstacles that happen halfway through the processes create time delays that are very hard to make up at the end.)
- Setting milestones, staying on on time and under budget. (Regular “checkpoints” allow a runner to determine if they’re using their equivalent resources (time, energy) too quickly or too slowly.
Find metaphors that can help your clients understand your own processes, and hone them to the point where you can tell a story that recounts your whole product development cycle. It’s very important that you client understands your work. After all, they’re paying you for it.
Never Stop Explaining
Understanding leads to comfort and comfort is the breeding ground of happy clients, especially in a referral-heavy business like technical consulting. As designers or developers, what seems straightforward to us might seem overwhelmingly complicated to the client. Comprehending new concepts happens in stages, especially when there is a strong emotional investment in the subject matter. Therefore, maintaining constant communicating about the project, its challenges, and the approaches that are being taken is essential in all client relationships. There is no such thing as over-explaining, and there’s never a good reason to stop.
Use The Words “Our,” “We,” and “Us”
Using inclusive words like the ones above communicate a sense of ownership and responsibility. Clients often worry that hired help will take their idea and propel it in a different direction than was intended. When we speak of a client’s project as our own, the level of comfort and trust they have for us increases. They hear within our language that we are truly collaborating with them. Earning clients’ trust creates an environment of freedom where everyone can excel and perform their best work.
The guts that it takes to be honest is a small cost to pay for the benefits of a well-informed client that trusts you. When clients lack an understanding of the technical work involved in mobile development, they’ll often worry that a consultant might take advantage of that opportunity to cut corners or overcharge. These kinds of unethical moves are, at best, short-term gains for catastrophic long-term consequences. Make your integrity abundantly clear from the start, and continue to earn the client’s trust throughout the project. You will end up with a happy client, a great referral opportunity, and a winning, long-term strategy. Happy clients often lead to more business.
Have you ever had difficulties communicating with clients? Do you have additional client communication advice?