Discovering clients expectations is vital. How do we do it?
Monday, November 13, 2017 by Ales
When starting to talk with a potential client both parties are to some extent unaware what one has to offer and what the other can expect. It is of vital importance you define and manage expectations in such a manner both parties will be satisfied with results. In the next couple of paragraphs, I will outline our approach to setting expectations right up until the day the onboarding process takes place. If all checkboxes up to that point were marked, the developer won’t have any issues when working with the client.
What do we have to offer
In my previous blog posts, I did write about ways AGILEDROP helps digital agencies, how we can get involved, and what we bring to the table. Because our developers integrate as our clients teammates their way of doing things doesn’t have to change. And it shouldn’t. That’s the whole point of integrating as a teammate, that nothing changes for the existing team. They will still use the same tools, the project management process will still be the same as one day ago, even daily and weekly timetables will stay the same. Yeah, the team got a new member whose job is not to disrupt the existing codes of conduct but to comply with them and deliver quality code. Communicate, ask questions, seek solutions to challenges, provide feedback, etc. This is what the client gets.
What the client expects
Things get a little bit tricky at this stage. There are various types of clients we are dealing with, the most typical being the following:
- There are clients which don’t outsource. Or they never did. But something happened, let’s say they have a couple of projects they still want to work on but no in-house capacities. So they start looking around for possible solutions.
- Then there are clients who did use some kind of outsourcing solution in the past and it did work out fine, but for the project at hand, their usual freelancer or a team of freelancers is unavailable.
- We also have clients which have experience working with freelancers or some other outsourcing company but it didn’t go that well. The work wasn’t done on time or the quality of the code was bad. Those clients will have a hard time trusting another outsourcing company or a freelancer.
- Of course, there are also clients (especially the bigger ones) who worked with a lot of freelancers but eventually realized it is hard to manage 20 freelancers with every one of them having their own way of doing things.
- And there are definitely clients which don’t outsource. Never. Never did and never will.
Different clients, different expectations
True. Those are different clients but that doesn't mean they have to have different expectations about how it is working with us. After all, they all get the same service. Getting all those different clients with various assumptions about working with us on the same denominator is not exactly easy. Getting an answer to a question what does a client expect from having a meeting with us is the first step. Equally important is what does the client expect from working with us.
So the common ground for all of the above clients would be what do they get from us. That is simple. They get a developer who works exclusively and full-time for as long as they need. The developer uses their tools, follows their processes, and becomes their teammate. They can expect that and more from us. But what can we expect from them? It is very important to know as much as possible about clients and their needs, wishes expectations. So we ask questions, a lot of them. Some of the most important are:
- When do you see, hypothetically, we could be starting working together?
- How long are the projects we are talking about? Development wise, average and minimal.
- What type of developers would you need to extend your team? Back-end or front-end?
- What are the additional skills you expect the developer is familiar with?
- What tools do you use for communication and project management?
- Do you follow any specific methodology like Scrum or Kanban and how does the PM process look like?
Answers to those questions steer us in the right direction.
What unexpected expectations can clients have
The most obvious answer would be none. It is our job to anticipate everything. So how we do discover what are the expectations of aforementioned five different client types. The client which never ever outsources expects nothing. Really, they expect nothing or very little. But sometimes they do recognize a value in our services. Not maybe for them. And in the case, there is a value also for them, maybe not now. And we do know how to talk to them to get familiar with those expectations. The client who never outsourced before, but has come to the point it will have to, has quite high expectations.
And rightly so, because all of our clients need to have high expectations from working with us. And there are some issues that bother clients like these, who just don't trust a service like that could be equally good to what they are doing in-house. Trust is also a vital component of clients who do have good past experiences and for the clients who have bad experiences dealing with freelancers or outsourcing companies. For the latter, it is very hard to trust someone new when they have burned themselves already. The former already have this trust somehow built in them, but changing their preferred supplier is always a bit stressful. And then there are the big clients which need to rationalize the way they are doing business. It is not sustainable working with 20 different freelancers at the same time when they could be working with three or four companies which could provide experienced developers.
Set goals, be honest and communicate
Those are not the only one but probably the three basic tenets of managing client expectations. Setting goals and creating a detailed plan for a project is a must. What to do and when to do. Be upfront about what are you capable to accomplish. And communicate by asking questions, providing feedback, suggesting next steps. But in the end clients expectations have to be inline with our expectations. By being agile - not just in the sense of a method of project management but also in the sense of being able to act quickly and easily - we get to the bottom of clients expectations and ensure that by the time the onboarding process takes place all of the questions are addressed and resolved.
We are very straightforward about what our clients can expect from us. Share us your expectations and we will find a way to meet them.