Any time the daily operations within your organization—or your project team—are disrupted, you may find yourself focused on reactive rather than proactive tasks. This is understandable early after change occurs when you’re still adjusting your strategy, but you should quickly work to get back to a proactive approach to project management. That includes your team’s need to keep customers engaged and provide them with a good experience.
But if part of that disruption includes moving to a more distributed workforce, whether among your internal project group or your stakeholder base, it can be difficult to maintain solid relationships with customers. What steps can your team take to overcome the challenges of a work-from-home environment and build stronger connections across your entire customer base?
Communication is your top priority
Your customers look to you for information on what’s happening with your project, what the initiative’s next steps will be, and any risks that might impact the project’s schedule and deliverables. Work to establish robust communications channels you and your customers can use to share data and discuss project details along the way. That may mean weekly video conferences or daily web chats—use the format and frequency that works best for your team and your customers, and be willing to adjust it to fit different stages of your project’s lifecycle.
If your internal team is dispersed, look for ways to consolidate communications and provide customers with a single source of trusted information. An experienced project management consulting firm can offer guidance on technology options to help maintain the most reliable and accurate project data.
Transparency is more vital than ever
Hiccups in your project plan shouldn’t come as a surprise to stakeholders. Be aware of the need to let your customers know where things stand, even if the news isn’t good. This encourages engagement and strengthens everyone’s commitment to the project’s ultimate success. Early notification about possible delays and updates on how these factors might affect the next phases of the project will help your customers know they can rely on the information you’re giving them, particularly when they can’t visit the jobsite or stop by the project team’s office in person. By building in regular project updates and enabling information sharing tools such as on-demand access to the latest data, your customers will still be confident they understand how well the project is doing.
Be candid about your team’s capabilities
Remote work arrangements may not be your team’s strong suit. Some people simply aren’t good at engaging others through video conferencing or via chat. Your organization might not be properly prepared to support a remote workforce. Many companies lack the IT expertise to successfully enable employees to work from home. Others don’t have a culture conducive to dispersed teams. All of these challenges can be overcome with some targeted efforts. Begin by acknowledging where you need help and then reach out to your support network to improve the situation. (JK: “support network” can link to earlier remote project management blog post “where to find help”)
Review expectations regularly
Every customer has their own expectations for your project. If it’s a new software product, they may hope it will streamline their work or enable them to better serve their own customers. They might expect to increase manufacturing capacity once your project is complete. In a remote environment where impromptu discussions are typically less frequent, it’s important to revisit those expectations regularly. The absence of information often results in assumptions or mistaken impressions, and you don’t want erroneous expectations clouding customers’ view of your project and its results. Reviewing expectations and resetting them as needed will keep your team and your customers on the same page.