Ways to Wiki: Create Happy Clients

Bookmark and Share Wednesday, July 21, 2010

happy_face_.jpgKnowledge workers in consulting and services companies provide the most value through the creation and sharing of information. In this digital world, service companies, especially small to medium consultancies, are relying heavily on email to share important documents with clients - everything from contracts and agreements, to digital copies of work in progress, to the final work products. While an effective form of communication, most experts would agree that running your entire business or consulting project through email is not a great idea. Here are three reasons why using collaboration sites as client portals can really supercharge your consulting efforts and create happier clients.

Collaboration is more than sharing. There are a lot of ways to get documents back and forth. Email is only one of them. But in this instance, it's the conversation that surrounds the document that is usually the most important. Clients give instructions on how to revise creative design documents, lawyers provide reasons for redline changes to contracts. Aside from the benefit of improving the way you are perceived among your client teams, use a collaboration site or wiki to keep track of the ongoing, back and forth dialogue in order to draw out hidden requirements or objections before they become problems down the road.

Audit Trail. As projects hurtle toward the deadline, the amount of revisions increase and the time to make decisions and give approvals decrease. Sometimes after the project is complete, the team can wonder - why did we do it that way? Invariably, the consultant is left defending hard decisions that were made in interest of time, budget, and scope. In addition to being difficult to piece together the decision-trail through a bunch of email correspondences, it puts the entire client relationship in a strange place. You find yourself playing a game of "he-said, she-said" using old emails that don't reflect well on your professionalism, and put a strain on the client/partner relationship. A collaboration site keeps track of who makes changes to what, and when and gives you the control over any post-launch questions - whether it's immediately after the project is delivered or 6 months later.

Your secret sauce. The personality of your agency or consultant that you are is largely defined by the way you do work. This is the "secret sauce" that differentiates you from thousands of other agencies that produce similar work products.  Clients often find themselves attracted to working people that have complementary personalities and work styles as ones they're used to. Imagine the suit-clad Madison Avenue agency from Mad Men showing up for a pitch at a surfboard shop. It's not hard to envision how that client relationship will pan out. By using a collaboration site that has your process built in, you're guiding your client through your process using the tools. Perhaps clients are attracted to the way you stay organized and keep the team driving toward the deadline without fail. Your client portal may feature a calendar of key milestones and who's responsible for what tasks, right on the homepage. Or, maybe you're known as the group that can spark new thinking and are able to get client teams to envision new ways of solving old problems. You may want to have free-form brainstorm section where clients are continually adding their random thoughts. Either way, using collaboration sites as client portals, that are templatized with your process will increase efficiencies in all projects.

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