We all agree that project debriefs are helpful if you can get clear takeaways about areas to improve in your management processes, cost estimates or client communications. But everything we’ve read about project debriefs is essentially internal and focused on your team.
What about the client’s perspective?
AEC firms tell us that they get the majority of their new work through repeat clients or referrals from clients. So it begs the question, why aren’t project managers checking in with clients immediately post-project, six months after a project and so on?
Some experienced project managers and firms with a sales team are great at this, but it should be a common practice across your PM team if you are building a culture that delivers consistently stellar client experiences. PMs who check in with clients strengthen the relationship, and they will also hear about future work on the horizon sooner.
It’s a team effort. PMs and business developers have different, but complementary interests in the relationship. Business developers are interested in keeping clients happy and attracting new work. PMs are interested in improving processes, efficiency and project outcomes. It all translates to new work and more enjoyable projects for everyone.
Winning AEC Business While Retaining Great PMs
Here are some thoughts to integrate client check-ins with your post-project debriefing. They are a key part of competitive research and winning future business.
- Encourage your PMs to invite or join clients for lunch. Post-project, you should have fun, celebratory lunches or post-project conversations. Why? It will strengthen the client relationship by letting the PM show their human and personal side. People who have a nice time together are more likely to want to work together in the future.
- Prep your PMs for great post-project questions. As part of your debrief process, create some questions that the PM can use to collect important feedback and also ask for referrals. You already know if the project came in on time and on budget, so why ask clients that?
Ask them about what they appreciated most during the project and what might have displeased them. Ask if you’re on the same page about the value you delivered or if they have other ideas. And finally, ask how likely they are to refer you to other clients, and when there might be new work coming your way.
- Train your PMs to share client feedback with marketing and business development. If your marketing team doesn’t know about how your firm saved a client thousands of dollars through a new choice of materials or an alternative design approach, they can’t share a success story to attract new business.
Plus, PMs can feel proud talking about their “wins” on a short video or sharing a client compliment in a case study. Even if you have an NDA, smart marketing people know how to discreetly share that competitive feedback and communicate your firm’s value to clients and prospects. Client feedback and stories are the most memorable ways to do that. And who is closer to the project’s value and deliverables than the PM?
Why is client feedback so important for AEC repeat business? You can’t assume that clients will choose your firm every time. These industries are too competitive.
Instead, proactively ask for the feedback through your debriefing process. Discuss the project internally, and then take that information on the road to discuss with your clients. They will appreciate that you spent time talking about their project, and you will appreciate having time with them that isn’t solely focused on a proposal, a problem or a deadline.
We highly recommend a post-project celebration, too. Cheers!