Why Should You Be More Transparent With Clients?
Any decent relationship “expert” out there will tell you that honesty with your significant other is crucial for a successful, rewarding and healthy relationship. For many of us, the idea of transparency sounds great in theory, but a little unnerving to put into practice. The thing is, transparency requires honesty and honesty often requires vulnerability. Being personally vulnerable has its risks, but the results can be hugely beneficial.
"We're ok with a little discomfort if it means more value for our clients."
The same principle applies to client relationships. Our clients expect us to be transparent with them and this often requires a level of vulnerability that many agencies and freelancers just aren’t comfortable with. We're ok with a little discomfort if it means more value for our customers. Our experience has shown that the more transparent we are, the more loyal our clients become.
For the past few years, we have been working to create more opportunities for transparency within our processes. As a result we've seen higher client engagement across the board, more organized and streamlined internal processes, and improved innovation from our team. One driving factor for these results has been how we communicate tracked time to our clients.
What we've done: Every week our account team assembles a report for each of our clients that outlines the time spent on a given project. Each report contains a clear overview of how hours were broken down per task and department. This provides consistent insight into the time that is being spent for each deliverable within the budget.
To pull this off effectively, it requires:
- Flexibility from our internal team. We ask that they carefully document their hours spent per project with the help of a time tracking software called Harvest. Time tracking is a controversial subject in some agency circles, but we'll write another post on why we returned to it after months of being on the dark side with all the cool Silicon kids.
- Organization within our projects and project management tools. Along with Harvest we also use Trello to manage project deliverables and sprints. Both are integrated which makes life easier on our team. However, this requires us to have projects set up correctly and remain well-organized. Otherwise, inconsistencies usually require additional time spent on reports, leading to unnecessary headaches.
- Innovation within our work. In the event that we’re moving more quickly than anticipated on a deliverable, there may be hours left over in the budget. Clients are fully aware of these hours because of the weekly reports. This bucket of time can either be utilized for additional features or removed from the final invoice to the client as a cost savings to them. The choice is theirs, and ideally we want to reinvest those hours back into the project to increase the value of the product we deliver. This is an opportunity for our team to uncover compelling ideas that justify the investment.
- Diligence in how we utilize the project budget. Since any work we do on a project is documented and communicated to the client, it requires us to constantly ask ourselves whether we are using the available hours as efficiently as possible.
- Communication with clients regarding project budget and scope. When you’re sending weekly utilization reports, it is going to generate discussion with your clients. This helps maintain a healthy scope and budget dialogue with your team and clients.
- Dedication to transparency. Tracking time efficiently and generating weekly reports can be tedious and time consuming, and the information we’re providing requires a certain level of vulnerability that can be a little uncomfortable at times. Everyone on the team has to understand the value transparency brings to our clients and be committed to providing that value every day. Ultimately, the upside of tracking this kind of data and leveraging it for the future far outweighs the inconvenience.
Transparency within your company (however you approach it) will have a positive effect on your entire business. It's tough work but the added benefit of increased client loyalty makes it a no-brainer for us.
Interested in working with us? Tell us about your project or learn more about our process.