Client Focus is a must
(The following is an excerpt from the book Successful Project Management for A/E/P and Environmental Consulting Firms, by Ernest Burden)
Client service. Client-focused. Client-driven. Client-centered. Every A/E/P and environmental consulting firm includes these words in their mission statement, promotional literature, or proposals and presentations. It’s a well-established industry belief that clients pay as much attention to the service they receive, i.e., accessibility to principals, responsiveness, attentiveness and attitude, as they do to technical quality of the work performed. Even when the project manager is paying careful attention to service considerations, satisfying clients is not easy. You have to walk-the-walk with client focus–breathe it, demonstrate it, and stop merely talking about it. As a result of client service:
• The business development budget will be transformed into a client retention budget.
• Your firm enters the competition arena as a preferred or even sole source provider.
• Your firm obtains more follow-on client-requested scope and budget expansion.
• Your staff enjoys increased job satisfaction because their importance is recognized.
• You firm spends less on proposals, contracts, and project execution.
• Your hit rate increases, since you avoid losses associated with responding to “over the transom” RFPs from non-committal clients.
In a client-sensitive organization, business development and project delivery are naturally integrated. However, since project delivery personnel spend more time with clients than anyone else, they should be the top client-service people. Project managers should not disappear when contracted work is completed, only to surface again when the next project is identified. They should remain focused on that client’s needs at every stage of the relationship.
Assigning a single person to the role of client service manager or client advocate will help mitigate the risk and capitalize on the opportunities. Everyone on the client service team needs to share their planned activities and information gained with that person. When disagreement occurs on client service issues internally, the client advocate should always be the final arbiter.