Successful project teams work closely with their customer groups. Robust communication channels and strong partnerships not only ensure the effort delivers the expected results, they also help to smooth over any bumps that may appear around work disruptions, delays, and other issues.
But your customer engagement strategy shouldn’t end when the project’s goals become a reality. Smart project teams continue to collaborate with customer groups through the initiative’s close-out phase to gather important feedback to help shape continuous improvement efforts and to drive customer satisfaction.
If you’re wondering how to maintain a collaborative environment even after your project’s visible work is complete, consider these suggestions on engaging customers through the close-out phase.
Let customers know early in the project lifecycle that they’ll be asked to participate in close-out and project review exercises.
Extending customers’ project horizon beyond the activities that directly affect their work helps to set the stage for a more effective post-project partnership. By alerting customers at the outset that they’ll be invited to share their feedback, comments, and suggestions during the close-out exercise, you enable them to collect their thoughts along the way and to be more aware of the two-way information sharing that’s so important during project planning and execution.
Solicit feedback from your customers several times during the project and remind them of their value of their contributions.
Your customers have their own job responsibilities to focus on, so occasional requests for input while the project is still active can help maintain both near- and long-term engagement. When you ask for feedback at different points along the project timeline, you both maximize the amount of information you’re able to gather and you facilitate communication while your customers’ thoughts are still fresh. This can also make customers more comfortable sharing candid comments during the review stage.
Create close-out communications before the project finishes, so your team has a chance to add questions and follow-up agenda items to the list.
With the volume of tasks your team may need to juggle to wrap up punchlist and other end-of-project items, it’s prudent to craft your customer-facing messaging ahead of time. You want team members to have the opportunity to close any information gaps and to ensure customers are asked questions that will provide the most useful and actionable feedback.
As you’re soliciting feedback from customers on how the project went from their perspective, you should also directly and clearly ask if there are any items that remain outstanding, or if they know of project elements that are still unfinished.
Sometimes an incomplete task—perhaps a relatively small or lower-priority activity—slips through the cracks. Your customers may not mention it because they assume your team is already aware of the issue. Directly asking if there are any outstanding tasks can help your team gain visibility into these gaps and addy them. Confirming your customers’ expectations are met and that activities that affect their workflows are complete are important elements in delivering a successful project.
Schedule any outstanding activities, notify customers of the status and anticipated completion date, then follow up with them once the work is complete to ensure everything was done as expected.
Diligent communication and follow-up from your team on the status of outstanding items can bring even a somewhat rocky project to a successful close and result in satisfied customers. These close-out discussions can also be a perfect opportunity to evaluate your team’s performance at each step in the entire project timeline and develop fixes for issues raised by your customers. You can then boost your project performance metrics along with your customer satisfaction rate.