Managing Client Feedback and Scope Creep with Andre Gagnon
We all know how it goes – the client just won’t stop making changes, the feedback seems endless and you can’t even keep a track of it. So how do you manage client feedback and scope creep but keep the client happy at the same time? In this episode, Andre Gagnon from ProjectHuddle chats to Mike and gives us some amazing advice to help you solve this problem.
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Who Is Andre Gagnon?
Andre has been in WordPress business for 10 years. He tells us that he started his own business because he needed to make money after being fired from a job, so he began creating themes. His latest development is ProjectHuddle which is a plugin to make it easier to get feedback from clients on their website design. The client is able to point to a specific part of the website and make a comment on the actual spot that they are wanting to alter.
Why Is It Important to Get Feedback Right in the Design Phase?
Part of it has to do with the fact that if you are an agency you are a service business. What we do is fun, we are creating something for them and the client wants to be involved in the process. So part of your business is to include your client in the process and let them know every step of the way, what you are doing.
Whether you like it or not, client feedback is about project management.
The go-to tool is email, but this opens you up to scope creep. The client shoots off an email when they think of something and then forgets about it. It is hard to track the number of changes and they may get annoyed if you are unable to get back to them right away.
However, with ProjectHuddle, both you and the client can see what changes have been requested and can better understand scope increase and whether changes fit into the budget.
What Are the Steps to Take to Manage Scope Creep?
Get the information that you need from the client. They know their goal, but it is up to you to paint the picture of how to get there especially if it is a complex project.
No project stays the same and there will be changes along the way, so make sure you build a buffer into your cost and budget in the time it takes to communicate things as well. Ensure that this is clear in the proposal and set the expectations from the start.
And remember – you can’t over-communicate with a client.
ProjectHuddle helps ask specific questions. This makes the communication more effective – rather than just sending over a design and asking what they think.
They may not know how to put into words what they want to change, so you need to ask the right questions.
For example, if the client tells you that the logo should be bigger, you need to say “Can I ask why”? They are then forced to explain what they think the end goal is. Those reasons are more important than the change itself.
They might request a change, but is that really what they want? You need to know the goal. We know how to make a site convert, but are they just guessing what is going to increase those odds? From asking “why” you might come to the conclusion that it actually isn’t about making the logo bigger, maybe they just need to add more branding on that page.
Sometimes once you delve into the reason you may find out that is not the problem at all.
Feedback Is Not Always a Bad Thing
Client feedback is a good thing as long as you have set up the proposal, budget and expectations properly. It can be a blessing because you can increase the budget and upsell some areas.
In addition to this, sometimes the client’s scope can change and the different avenue you go down can end up better as a result.
Qualify the Customer
Get to know the client even before they’ve signed on. How the customer handles the feedback from the beginning such as proposals is an indicator of how they will be for the rest of the project.
Sometimes when you look back on those nightmare clients, you can see that there were warning signs early on. So you need to spend more time discovering them and make sure you get the deposit upfront.
There is emotion involved in this for them because their business is their heart and soul and of course, so they want to have some control. Keep in mind that the more involved that the client wants to be, the higher the budget will be because it will involve a lot of changes.
Set the precedent that you’re not going to make decisions based on taste because everyone’s taste is different. It’s based on the goals. If they don’t like the design then you need to dig deeper to discover whether it’s about personal taste or something that will help accomplish their goals.
If the client is talking just listen, even if you don’t agree. Everyone just wants to be heard. If you don’t first listen and then explain your reasons as to why you can’t make a change, then that causes friction. Instead say “I understand your vision, but I can’t do that because….”
Get to Know Your Client’s Business
Being a web developer means that you are a therapist and business consultant too.The more you know about the business, the easier it is to handle feedback. Then you speak their language as a business partner. You transition from a web designer to someone who understands their vision, values and goals. This builds trust and they can rely on you to make decisions.
You are putting their business into a digital realm so you need to know everything about it.
Mike's Hot Tip
Do in-depth research into your client’s customers (such as social media and SEO analytics) to understand more about them. This is a sure fire way to impress the client!
Don’t just send over an entire website and ask them what they think. Ask specific questions not based on tastes but specific to their goals and business.
Centralise the Feedback
If you receive feedback from phone, email or skype, this means the records are kept everywhere and hard to keep a track of. Whereas with ProjectHuddle it’s all in the one place which makes it easier for the client to understand how many changes are taking place and how that will affect their budget.
Email can be treated like an instant messenger and they expect instant feedback. Whereas when you make ProjectHuddle part of the process then they don’t have that same expectation.
Golden Nugget Tips to Prevent Scope Creep
- Qualify the customer
- Communicate the process early
- Build the relationship with your client
- Get to know their business
- Ask why
- Centralise the feedback
That’s it for this episode. How awesome were those tips from Andre? Now go and get your process set up and stop that endless feedback spiral! Oh, and be sure to leave us some comments on what you think of these tips, or if you have your own effective process. We’d love to hear from you on this topic.