Companies hire digital services firms because they need help. They may be looking for strategic guidance such as an eBusiness Plan or to replatform their website to increase sales. But the deliverable is only one part of the solution. The nature of the relationship between client and their outside team is a big determinant of a project’s success.
At Absolunet, one of our five main values is “Trust”. This value is hyper-relevant when it comes to client relationships. The moment we can’t be honest with one another is the moment we lose our edge.
Here are 5 tenets of Absolunet’s approach to building and keeping positive and productive relationships with our clients.
1. Put Your Best Foot Forward
When a new client begins working with Absolunet, the team, which often includes developers, designers, a Product Owner and a Scrum Master, does a kickoff call with the client. This is an opportunity for everyone to meet. In a structured but casual conversation, both parties learn about what each other needs and the overall expectations.
Here’s a typical meeting agenda for that kick-off call:
- Team Introduction - 10 min
- Roles and responsibilities
- Project Champion - 5 min
- Identify the project champion on the client's side; this person will be our primary point of contact and the decision-maker
- Quick Project Review - 15 min
- Context and requirements
- Objectives - 15 min
- Review objectives, goals, and critical success factors
- Dates & Criteria - 10min
- Review completion criteria and critical dates
- What’s Next - 10 min
- Review implementation plans and identify the tasks to be completed
- Project Governance - 10 min
- Project management and communication tools
- Discovery Workshops - 5 min
- Schedule the onsite or virtual workshops and installation activities
- Homework - 10 min
- Discussion what everyone needs to do to prepare for the workshops
This meeting helps set the tone for a clear and communicative relationship.
2. Active Listening - an Underrated But Crucial Skill
Denis St-Michel, Product Ownership Practice Lead at Absolunet, draws on years of experience and various certifications in the Agile Methodology. He says that active listening is important for interactions with clients and colleagues. To facilitate active listening, St-Michel recommends reading your notes before a meeting and leaving your cell phone in another room.
St-Michel also talks about “labelling” where you repeat what you’ve heard the client say.
You might say: “So you’re feeling concerned about the deadline?”
The client might respond:
- “Yes, I think we need more time to get this done.”
- “No, I’m actually concerned about the tasks; we need to revisit our priorities.”
Even if your label wasn’t on point, you’ve left room for the client to clarify.
3. Clear Notes - the Trojan Horse of Productive Interactions
Note-taking is essential for keeping track of your communication with another party. Notes require a certain structure in order to be useful. Here are the basics:
- Date and time
- Clear and consistent titles
- List of who is on the call
Revisiting notes ensures consistency and allows each call to be more productive. Bolded text, pearl points, and iconography such as stars or exclamation points make the notes easier to skim.
Review your notes 10-15 minutes after the meeting to clean them up and pull out the action items. This way, when you read them again before your next meeting, all the important points will be clearly stated. As for shared notes, you can state the action items at the top so readers can quickly understand what is expected of them and read the notes below for further detail.
“It is very useful to have a partner with whom you revise your notes,” says St-Michel. “They can provide fresh insight and find details you might have missed in the meeting.”
Finally, make sure you store the notes in a place that is easy to find.
4. Transparency - the Cornerstone of Trust
At Absolunet, we value transparency with our clients. We strive to maintain an open channel of communication and keep everyone informed, not just in the beginning, at the end, or when issues arise. This is how we build trust.
“Trust is built with the help of the whole team. It’s about bringing quality, respecting the budget and making great custom features that meet the client’s needs.” -Étienne Laurent, Director of Operations at Absolunet.
Absolunet teams hold Scrum meetings to discuss projects and use Basecamp and JIRA as tools to stay in regular communication with clients.
5. Fun - We All Want to Like What We Do
On a recent call with clients based in Florida, one of our team leads from Quebec shared a story from his youth about digging the family car out of 4 feet of snow. Our client howled with laughter; he had never experienced that much snow in his life.
We are all human beings and we crave connection, even at work. We want our clients to look forward to our collaboration and we want our teams to be seen, heard and valued. Each team has their own approach. But one thing that unites the Absolunet team is excitement about fast-forwarding our clients’ digital journeys. And that journey is faster, smoother and more pleasant when we build trust and communicate.