8 Tips for Keeping Customers and End Users Engaged in Your Project
Posted by Greg Cardwell
Do you have a project that is taking so long to complete that your customers are starting to lose interest? This problem is common enough for big projects and feature updates. You see your competitor is doing something novel or you come up with a great new feature. You tell your customers what to expect, then weeks turn into months. You know you need to keep your end users engaged in your project if it is going to be successful, but it is taking too long to work its way from one end of your professional services project management plan to the other.
When this happens, it may seem insurmountable, but there are things you can do to keep end users focused and customers waiting in the wings for your next big thing. Here are eight tips for keeping customers and end users engaged in your project:
First and foremost, set expectations. No matter how large or small your project, always hold a kickoff meeting with your key customers and tell them what to expect. Don't be afraid to (briefly) tell them what obstacles might come up or explain your process. You want your end users to walk away understanding roughly how long the project will take and why it takes so long. This eliminates a customer assuming it will take you one month to do what you know will take a year.
This leads to another point. You have to be realistic. The last thing you want is for your end user to walk away thinking you will be able to do something you can't. You don't even want them to know the best case scenario. When you meet with your customers and end users about the project, you have to be utterly realistic about how long everything will take. Finish your project sooner and they will be wowed by your efficiency. Keep postponing the launch date and your customers will lose interest.
Status meetings may seem too transparent, but make sure you are sending regular updates to your customers. The more vital those end users are to your project, the more often you should be touching base. Think of a Kickstarter program. It outlines the milestones for the project, presents a timeline, and sends regular updates detailing the progress of the project. This makes end users feel important, which will keep them engaged.
You may also want to assign tasks. (Yes, even to your customers.) The idea here is to give them something to do that is related to the project and has a specific outcome. For instance, if you are working on an IT project, you could send them a link to a prototype of software. Alternatively, you could ask customers to preview a website, look at pictures of the end product or vote on a color scheme for the logo.
You can engage your end users by directing them to social media as well. Instead of generating comments via a survey or email, ask them to vote or comment on social media. This can help start a conversation with other customers. No longer are they singular voices in the void. They have a name, a photo and an identity. End users may start to engage with one another, debating which version of your logo they like best or voting on which features the updated product should have. Either way, you win.
You may not have a product ready for the end user in months, but that doesn't mean you can't deliver value in the meantime. Use your social media to take a stand on issues and provide tips. For instance, if your company is building a better bag for travel, creating content about how to pack for certain trips or tips for how to fit everything into a single bag can deliver value to your end user. You don't even have to sell. Just deliver value.
No matter how you choose to communicate with your end users, you have to be responsive. Make sure that your customers know how to reach you and respond within a reasonable time frame when they do. When a customer contacts you, they are really at the height of engagement - they went to you. Making a timely and appropriate response will make the end user feel appreciated and, in turn, engaged.
There is no press as effective as good word of mouth. Encourage end users to become advocates by rewarding and recognizing them for their involvement. Offer rewards for loyalty, recognize them by name and take the time to understand what each one needs personally before making any recommendations or suggestions. You can establish your program for this at the beginning of the project (say at your kickoff) or by surprising them with a free gift or upgrade.
Keeping end users and customers engaged can be a challenge, but it is not impossible. If you need a hand structuring your project to provide that engagement or are interested in software systems that tie everything together, Unit4 is here to help. We offer a range of software solutions that can make project management and customer engagement practically effortless.
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