I’m finding out that you can actually do a crappy job for clients, but if your communication with your client is stellar, then you really have to be terrible at what you do to lose the client. Don’t get me wrong: You still want to make sure that the quality of your work is nothing other than stellar. My point is, communicating effectively with your client is often more crucial than the quality of the work itself.
My previous article discussed how I use Slack to facilitate excellent communication with my clients. Sometimes my onboarding process can be slow, but I’ve found that by keeping my clients informed, and not in the dark, they tend to be extremely patient with me.
You can use features in Slack, like stars, and pins, and reminders, to keep track of to-do items, but at some point you will want to use an actual project management tool. As long as we’re heavily focused on communication being the key here (and I believe it is) then we should look at a project management tool that makes communication around the tasks and to-do’s of a project very easy.
The goal is to change the clients’ lives so profoundly they couldn’t imagine working with anyone else. How to we do that with our project management tool? By making sure they understand exactly what is getting done and when. More importantly, by giving them a way to communicate with us, to which we can respond quickly. Quickly is solved by context. Smartsheet lets me set up alerts in several ways, and gives me and my client tools that make it super easy to see who’s doing what, and when. When there are questions (and you should assume there will be) we have a platform through which we can have the dialogue, right in the context of the tasks themselves.
This is MUCH more efficient than e-mail!
Alerts, Notifications, and Reminders
Smartsheet has alerts and then there are two types of alerts:
Notifications are based on events, such as “when anything changes…”
Reminders are based on dates. This means you have to have date-based fields (columns) to use them. The great thing about Smartsheet is that you can create as many columns as you need, using various formats, including dates.
Another column format you can use in Smartsheet is the “Contact List.” The most common use case is having an “assigned to” column based on the list of contacts with whom your sheet (or the workspace it’s in) has been shared.
With all of the above in place, I can set up all kinds of alerts that help make sure everyone remains engaged in the project. This ensures that they get things done on time, or discuss things properly, when they can’t.
I can tell Smartsheet to send “assigned to” a reminder 5 days before their task is due. Then I can add another alert that says to send a reminder 1 day before. Then I can set up an alert to send me (directly) a reminder whenever it’s 1 day past any due date. This allows me to follow up and make sure things are not being forgotten.
I also like to set up a notification based on any changes made in the sheet. I set these up hourly. You can set them to go out ‘right away’ but that gets to be a little much if someone is in there making a lot of changes. The hourly notifications, whenever anything changes, keep me aprised of when someone is working in there, as well as what they are doing. The e-mails come with anything that changed, highlighted in yellow. The emails also come with attachments, if someone has attached an item to something in Smartsheet. This saves me the trouble of clicking over. I can click and download it straight from the alert that I received.
Discussion / Comments
I love Smartsheet because it’s very customizable, especially when it comes to the alerts, and the alerts help a ton when it comes to communication. My clients love it. Yes, you get these e-mail reminders, but they are what I call “throw away” e-mails, and I don’t mind getting them at all. I view them in my inbox, and I make sure that they are all addressed before the day is done. At the end of each day I go through the starred e-mails, click right into the project from where they came, and perform whatever follow up action is needed, including making comments. These comments are yet another way that Smartsheet allows me to communicate with the client, so that there is a clear understanding about who needs what, from whom, and by when.