One of my favorite but simplest tools when gauging a software project’s status is keeping tabs on the “feeling in the room” with clients. Keeping tabs on the client’s engagement and responses can act as a barometer of how the project is going and the state of the client relationship. This started from a simple place. It was noticeable early on that engagements were more enjoyable when we have a good rapport with the client and share laughs throughout the week. It’s nice to have fun at work. I’d also argue it allows us to deliver a better customer experience for our clients.
Adjusting My Laugh Metric
Not every client’s culture welcomes laughter as a good gauge. Some clients have more fun than others, but there is no right or wrong way. As usual, the extremes are probably not ideal. At first, I would make mental notes about how often I heard laughs or chuckles during a meeting. Over time, I made the laugh metric more nuanced by paying closer attention to changes in client engagement and demeanor.
It’s hard to take a single data point for these measurements since individuals are often highly affected by emotions daily. But, averaging the data over a couple of days to a week can help bring these insights into focus.
Two Key Times to Measure Client Engagement
There are two places during a client engagement where I keep a heightened lookout. The first is at the beginning of the engagement. Clients can be a little nervous, and rightfully so. There is a lot of work to be done, and many have not built software before. It’s worth it to keep tabs on how things are going until clients have acclimated to the process and feel comfortable.
Teams can gauge the client during this period and work to address any concerns. They can then update any processes to ensure the client is as comfortable as quickly as possible. It’s helpful to have the client acclimated quickly since they will be in their most empowered state to help us build the best product we can.
The next usually occurred after the halfway point of the engagement. This usually comes after the novelty of the project starts to wear off, and it isn’t as overwhelming as other issues that may arise in the client’s life. The excitement and focus around starting a new project can be tremendous and dominate other feelings. This feeling often returns to baseline at some point. Other justified and unjustified problems or emotions (from work or their personal lives) can more easily affect the project.
Benefits of Reading the Room
By keeping an ear on the beat of the communication, the team can identify issues before they become problems for the team, client, or engagement.
Over time, interactions with the client might start to get tense during meetings. This can be a sign that the team needs to have a preemptive meeting with the client to check how things are going. Have new risks arisen? Are there new pressures somewhere else? Do they impact our team, and, if so, how? And, bottom line, are the expectations aligned?
Other times teams can find validation in solving their customer’s pains when communication goes from tense to relaxed.
It might seem simple to pay attention to the communication and feeling in the “room.” However, it can give teams a powerful indicator that can ultimately lead to solving problems before they get too big. With that extra effort, teams can improve client engagement and make the client’s experience even more delightful.