Have you ever had the project sponsor speak up during a status call and ask if you can get that new report done a week earlier than requested…or some other similar type of request? And what do say in return? No? I’m guessing not. And in reality, just giving the client a quick ‘no’ isn’t a good idea anyway. But neither is giving them an immediate ‘yes’, which is what many of us do nearly all the time. And why do we do that? Because we know we can do it? Maybe. Because we think we can? Probably. We know it’s easier to say yes now and apologize later if we fail. Is it because we have big egos? Probably. Is it because we don’t want to tell the client no? Again, probably.
So, we said we could get it done…how we should be careful to say and then how to follow up…
Saying yes is actually good. First, saying yes is actually good. But say it with a caveat. Say, “Yes, I think we should be able to accommodate that request. We just need to assess it on our end and get back to you on how to incorporate it into the current work and schedule.” Something like that should do the trick. Don’t say you have to verify if it’s in or out of scope – that’s sort of a given but you don’t have to always sound like the “Scope Police” (cue one of my favorite songs “Dream Police” as background music now). It will quickly turn the customer off after about the second time you utter those words.
Meet with your team to create a response strategy. Gather the team together and use some mind mapping software to come up with a quick response strategy. Likely you’re going to be coming back to the project sponsor with a change order and that’s good – but you need to do it strategically so that you meet their needs and get their money funnelled into the project as more revenue at the same time. Always make the change they want look even more enticing and necessary than even they thought it was – it will make approval and signoff of that nice change order even easier to get.
Keep your ego in check. The delivery team is full of big egos and you all think you can do anything for the client. You may be able to, but it will almost always come at a price. So the blanket response of, “We can do that” with nothing more said can give the customer the false idea that you can do it, will do it, and it’s all part of the current scope or will be so easy that they won’t have to pay for it. On a long term engagement it’s very easy for each side to get so familiar with each other that you think certain things are just “included.” Don’t play hardball, but try not to make it such a nonchalant response. Be business like and let them know you’ll research and get back to them.
It’s ok to sound positive…that’s what the delivery team should always be about – fulfilling the needs of the project customer. But remember that it’s your job to deliver a successful project, a profitable project, and to manage project scope all at the same time. So, give the customer the feeling you can do anything, but never give that fully away in your initial response. Count to ten before responding if you have to. That’s a good strategy for any tense, critical or stressful situation and customer requests fall into one of those categories.