Do you ever feel that you are talking to two different organizations depending on which customer stakeholder you are engaging? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. All too often there are projects out there with customers who have their own internal communication struggles. You get a specific messaging from one stakeholder only to have another call with that person’s boss or counterpart and receive a totally different message. Here are three tips to helping solve a communication crisis for your customer.
Whatever you do as a project manager, you need to ensure that the messaging you are providing to your customer at any level is consistent. You may not share specific details with certain individuals but your overall message needs to be consistent. If your schedule is threatened, this cannot be hidden from any level of stakeholder with your customer. If there is a problem with requirements, again that needs to be disclosed at all levels and with the same message throughout. If you are sensing there are communication challenges with your customer, inconsistent messaging from yourself or your team will only further complicate the situation.
Revisit Communication Plan
Every project should have a communication plan drafted and reviewed at the outset of it. If you, as the project manager, are finding that communications are failing or worse yet being distorted among different stakeholders with your client, dust off your communication plan and re-broadcast it out to your client stakeholders. Perhaps there is a breakdown in the plan that needs some revising. Maybe there is a new group of stakeholders that have been introduced to the project that are part of the complications. Whatever the situation, reviewing your communication plan and re-iterating your approach with the customer is never a bad plan.
When all else fails (and protocols should be observed here) take to the electronic airwaves and start informing all stakeholders with your messaging. Perhaps it’s a client sponsor who is not being provided adequate information by the project manager with whom you are communicating. In that case you don’t want to sour relationships by appearing to go over one’s head but keep in mind your number one priority is the health of your project and having a sponsor who is ill-informed can be a very dangerous position for your project to be in. When in doubt, over-communicate – so long as your messaging is consistent and you are adhering to communication protocols you can’t be at fault. And by transmitting valuable information about your project to the ones responsible for making decisions that affect your project, you are doing right by your number one priority – your project.
Managing communications on a project is one of the most valuable aspects of project management. It is difficult enough to do with your own team and when there are communication breakdowns at the client level it proves to be even more challenging. These tips won’t solve every communication crisis with your client but it will start to put you on the right path for getting a clear and consistent message out to all of your stakeholders.