Any development team must strive to create an open, transparent relationship with their client. Transparency breeds trust and shows accountability, and these are two qualities clients look for in development companies. It means that the team will offer visibility into the project and into its changes.
At BairesDev, a nearshore outsourcing company, we found that a clearer process leads to a more productive work environment and thus happier clients. We find that our clients are more on board with the project when there are high levels of transparency. Plus, this also means that when surprises do happen, and they often arise on development projects, the client isn’t blindsided.
When starting a development project, there should always be at least one project manager with open availability to the client. When taking on outsourcing projects, many firms make the mistake of not even using a project manager, which typically ends badly as developers cannot effectively handle this type of communication. This is why our US clients love that we’re in the same time zone as them, so it makes it easy for us to find time to speak or even just chat throughout the day on projects. I found that with more open availability, clients have a good understanding of what we’re doing and visibility into the project and timelines.
Openness about team structure
When we work with a client, we like to make it clear which developers will work on what projects. While the project manager usually handles the communication between the developers and the client, sometimes developers talk directly with them. It can be uncomfortable for clients mid-way through a project to see an unknown name pop up in an email. Especially because most of the technical elements are private, this breeds mistrust in clients.
A transparent team structure is important as well. In fact, transparency is the number one factor contributing to employee happiness.
We often send a team structure document or introductions to our clients. For them to understand who is on the team, which may change, but we explain that when it happens. It’s also a good time to define roles. The client knows who is responsible for each aspect of the project. This dramatically helps improve communication and sets the working relationship off on the right foot.
As mentioned, surprises happen in any development project. For example, sometimes we need to add another specialist to the team. Since we are always transparent with our clients, they understand this type of adjustment and typically don’t mind team restructuring.
I’ve seen development firms get the payment and then go silent for weeks. This is a crucial mistake and makes for a very closed off relationship. Project managers should communicate early on in projects with both the client and the developers. Since clients often request changes or budgetary issues arise, project managers don’t want to play catch up with either side.
Communication mistakes are costly. One report found that the average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication.
We like to communicate early on to set the tone for a transparent relationship. At BairesDev, we offer a communication schedule that is most comfortable for our clients. Some prefer to hear from us weekly and others prefer that we only communicate when necessary. We are reliable in our communication, which gives the clients an added layer of trust in our services.
Be honest about mistakes
Mistakes happen. Unfortunately, we all have to have the dreadful experience of apologizing to the client. Some development firms will try to cover up mistakes instead of owning up to them. The client usually finds out, and it means an enormous loss of trust when programmers try to hide it.
Instead, explain the mistake. Tell the client why it happened and come with a few possible solutions to solve the problem. This creates a more transparent relationship.
Consistency is an excellent way to build trust. There are a few ways to stay consistent with clients:
- Always provide high-level, quality work. If parts of the project are poorly built and others exceed expectations, the client will not be pleased. The level of work should remain consistently high from the project managers to testers.
- Keep communication consistent. If a PM says that they will send a report every Friday, make sure that the report goes out. Clients will not be pleased if PMs email them five times one day and then not at all for weeks. Communication expectations should be clear and stay consistent throughout the project.
- Keep on schedule. Development teams that continuously meet timelines can be trusted. It means the client has a transparent view into the workings of the project and understand what will be done and when. This also limits the need for many emails asking for a status.
Listen to the client
Lastly, build transparency by really listening to the client needs and wants and acting on them. Many firms have a meeting with a client who explains a want and then simply does something else. This is a basic way to create a transparent culture, but it’s arguably the most crucial. Development teams that hear what the client has to say and act on it are on their way to building a transparent work environment.