A key factor to good business is good relationships, and relationships are all about communication. I remember back in my college days something a professor once told me, “in marketing relationships the client is not only your most important partner, the client is your wife” and that statement (although a bit extreme) becomes ever more present in a wonderful (and almost scary) fashion each day. This analogy can be extended and explored in order to understand why some business relationships fail, break up, make up, or live on for years and years.
“Happy wife, happy life…” right?
But what does it mean to keep your clients happy? Companies can spend thousands of dollars in acquiring new clients, and the cost of retaining a client diminishes over time. However, the cost of loosing a client is usually so high that it can end up killing a company when it happens. It not only comes down to the quality of a product or customer satisfaction or any other variable you learn about in text books.
Many times the basis of a good business relationship is good communication. A mixture of elements like the exchange of information, planning, execution and feedback. These elements lead to the knowledge and wisdom to review a process thoroughly, measure achievements and make positive changes. We’ve found our clients value all of these things, but they value communication even more! (even if they never admit it.)
How we communicate
We are a web and mobile development team based off Latin America. There are a couple of thousands of miles between our company grounds and most of our clients. It’s a bit difficult to schedule regular meetings when you have to go through customs every time you want to meet in person and say hi. But even when it comes to our local clients, face-to-face meetings imply transportation, time scheduling, and refusing other activities with a higher potential of productivity. There are many TED talks dedicated to the sheer EVIL of lengthy and ineffective business meetings (Business Meetings Are Evil by Ellen De Bruin being one of my favorites). They are lengthy, they interrupt productive hours for everyone involved; and most of the times the agenda items have been sitting unattended by the teams so long, it’s very easy for each item to consume all the time that was estimated for the meeting in the first place.
The Tools We Use
In my personal experience, five meetings with a duration of 10 minutes every day are considerably more productive than 2-3 hour monthly meetings. The conversation topics are more focused, time constraints motivate people to address urgent matters first, bigger and more complicated issues are re-assessed; if they are important and urgent, they can be addressed more directly with the decision makers.
This is why at LionMane we believe/practice/preach an approach of constant communication with every single project we undertake!
To make that happen, we use a set of tools you might find useful (and you can certainly use to communicate with us).
We love Slack! And this is why:
The app in its most basic form is free! And of course they have a premium version which we use, and it absolutely rocks! You can sign on to different teams and invite others onto your own team. Each conversation and topics can be treated separately and kept organized through different channels. There are several integrations with other tools like Github, Trello, Google Drive (which we use as well) that help our workflow and client communication. Every time we start working on a particular task, make a change, submit deliverable or commit code, they’ll be able to know about it with every integration.
Github + Zenhub (The Dynamic Hub Dyad!)
We use Github mainly as a collaborative tool and repository, but integrations such as Zenhub allow us to communicate how we work to our clients. Each project has a board with several pipelines, each for a step on our development process. The pipelines are populated with project “issues” which can be either a development task, a bug to fix, an enhancement upon an existing feature, or another item related to the project. You can also check out our other blog post on The importance of Software QA to learn more about how we use Github as part of our development process. Each issue is thoroughly documented, with the contributions by each of the team members
Whether we are working with a client who doesn’t have too much time to go in depth into details, or with a client who is very interested in technical details, our repositories are open so they can participate at any level they feel comfortable at.
We divide our work into various development sprints, with a duration of 2 weeks. Every 2 weeks we review our accomplishments and objectives with our clients in a more in depth analysis. This gives our client the information they need to make better decisions. That could be evaluating performance, doubling efforts into a particular task, switching an idea that could be improved, or exploring new opportunities. Either way, our clients can see this process and tell us about it! This is one of the things we are proud of, we treat our clients they way we perceive them: like our most important partners.
What do our clients think about this?
At first glance, we’re a software development services provider. We focus on quality and we strive each day to make great software. Many other development studios can promise these basic things, and probably deliver on them as well. We like going the extra mile, and our communication process is one of the things we are consistent in order to achieve that. We like to be our clients’ #1 ally, and see their ideas evolve through into successful products.