It’s tempting to think that once a project has been delivered, the relationship with your client is over. However, nothing could be further from the truth. If you don’t incorporate a post-project ‘customer aftercare‘ phase, you could end up facing ongoing and constant support requests for the smallest of queries.
Fortunately, creating a solid process for weaning the client off your support is relatively straightforward. Of course, you don’t want to sever ties completely (especially if there is still a warranted need for your services). Still, helping the client become self-sufficient is good practice for both parties.
In this post, we’ll look at what you should do once a project is over, and how to help your client transition to using their new asset without your assistance. Let’s get to work!
What ‘Caring’ for Your Client Post-Project Means
We should start out with a definition or two. In this context, ‘care’ is an informal way of referring to the ways you help your client learn about and use their newly-delivered project. That could be an entire website, a plugin or theme, or something else entirely.
To offer an analogy, you wouldn’t take a newly-qualified driver and expect them to come to grips with a high-powered race car right away. They’d likely cause some serious damage. You should think the same way about the projects you deliver.
After all, you’re likely delivering something complex enough that it can break if used incorrectly. Making sure your clients are comfortable with the software’s functionality is a smart move.
Why You Should Build a Dedicated ‘Aftercare’ Phase Into Your Projects
Ultimately, training (or whatever your preferred term is) can benefit you just as much as your client, although it may not seem that way at first glance. Of course, we’ve already touched on the positives from the client’s perspective. They get to learn about their new ‘toy’, and can also be empowered to train other team members. A major benefit of offering this kind of training is self-sufficiency.
However, there are also advantages on your end, albeit more long-term ones. You can think about the training phase as a chance to showcase your knowledge to clients. Of course, you don’t want to treat this time as a personal sounding board. However, consider that for every question or query you can answer, you’re building up your reputation and authority. This is likely to be a key selling point when your client recommends you to others.
As we’ve already alluded to, you’ll also be preventing minor support requests before they happen. It is worth pointing out that you don’t want to completely dissuade your client from contacting you. After all, there’s a billable element to consider, especially for larger issues that can’t be easily resolved.
However, you do want your clients to have the required day-to-day expertise and knowledge to use their product properly. If they’re constantly asking very simple questions that could have been dealt with sooner, you’ll both end up losing valuable time.
How to Care For Your Client After Delivering Their Project (In 3 Steps)
By now, you’ll have gathered that providing training to your clients will benefit everyone involved. As an added bonus, it also helps to extend the project’s time a little further. With all that in mind, let’s discuss how to build this element into your projects, starting with when training should be introduced.
Step 1: Ask Your Client Some Initial Questions
The decision about when to begin training isn’t as clear-cut as it first appears. The knee-jerk decision here is to simply start training your client at the end of a project. However, this is often too late in the proceedings. For example, if you wait until the project is nearing its final stages, you’ve missed multiple opportunities to gather vital information about its user base.
In fact, you’ll be better off asking a few questions at the very start of a new project. The following information is most crucial:
- Who will be using the project (i.e. who are the specific team members responsible for it)?
- What pre-existing WordPress knowledge is already in place? This can also be expanded to include general technical knowledge, depending on the project and client.
- How will the project be used day to day?
- How many staff will need training, and will the management require custom tutorials on specific elements?
Once you have these answers (and we’d recommend pushing for absolute clarity whenever possible), you can begin considering the level of training you’ll offer.
Step 2: Ascertain What Training the Client Needs
Even once you have a general idea for how much training the client requires, you’ll want to continue asking questions as the project progresses. This way, you can start forming a plan to teach your client how to use their new asset as early as possible.
While you’ll want to build training into the project schedule, be prepared to make this the most flexible and fluid of tasks. Of course, you can’t guarantee that all team members will grasp the concepts, features, or functionality you’re presenting right away. Therefore, making sure everyone understands what they need to know may mean extending the project deadline a little (after client approval, of course).
Once you understand that training is a flexible and ongoing part of each project, you can begin to ascertain what training is actually needed. You can do this by asking a few questions of the client’s project lead:
- Who on the team needs WordPress-specific training? This includes the absolute basics, along with anything specific to the project deliverable.
- Do certain members lack technical knowledge of computers in general? Depending on the answers you get, this could extend the training time needed.
- Does the project provide functionality required for any business-critical tasks? If so, explaining that functionality will require extra time.
You’ll notice that these questions are quite simple (and similar to those asked in the last step). Usually, this is just a discovery exercise, although the answers may change somewhat throughout the project. Once you’ve nailed down these aspects, however, you’ll have everything you need to put together the actual client training.
Step 3: Choose Appropriate Delivery Methods Based on Client Feedback
Finally, how you deliver the training to your client can make or break its success. This may seem obvious on the surface. However, there’s often a temptation to simply do what you’ve done before, or provide resources unsuited to your client’s team just because you already have them.
Hopefully, the previous steps will have shown you that tailoring training to each specific team and project is the right plan. For example, people have unique and varying learning preferences. In order to maximize retention, the ideal strategy is to develop custom schedules for each person.
However, this can be impractical for you, costly for the client, or both. Therefore, creating several ‘branches’ team members can go down will often be the path of least resistance. This will also encourage self-sufficiency and problem-solving. Team members who are starting from scratch can take one training path, while more advanced users can follow an accelerated track.
The standard approach for actually providing this training is to simply create written instructions in the form of a manual. However, some clients will prefer a PDF version, or even a file that is compatible with their favorite e-book reader. This shouldn’t require too much effort on your end, and will make you look much more attentive to each individual’s needs.
You could even go the extra mile and create visual aids for those team members who don’t want to read a manual. Short videos or GIFs also work well, especially if they can be stored on the client’s intranet or other internal network.
Finally, you may come across those who don’t seem to grasp anything you’re teaching, regardless of the delivery method. There are a few approaches you can take to resolve this issue. For example, other ‘tech-savvy’ team members could assist in providing one-on-one support (although you could also do this yourself if the time and budget are available).
You can also schedule group learning sessions, round-tables, and Question and Answer (Q&A) sessions – basically any event that teaches the client’s entire team how to use the new product. Taking the time to be thorough here will pay off in saved time and a better relationship in the long run.
Onboarding your client correctly is definitely important, as is actually delivering a quality result. However, signing off on a project before your client can actually use their shiny new site (or other asset) is asking for trouble. In this case, that “trouble” consists of time-wasting support requests that could have been ironed out with a ‘training module’ built into the project itself.
Fortunately, putting this training together can actually be a simple proposition. For example, online documents or PDFs can carry much of the weight. What’s more, they can even be reused with other clients if the functionality they describe is relevant. Of course, old-fashioned one-to-one training is also a solid option, especially for empowering a client’s team members to help one another.
How do you currently build training into your projects? Share your strategies in the comments section below!
Featured image: andreas160578.