Get your customer involved in your web project and in your workflow

Define your clients’ role to your clients, in your mutual project. Use them as a resource in your teams.

No one needs to make a case for customer involvement, benefits are plenty and clear. Differences appear in how does one get customers involved in an effective way and avoid any counterproductive effects of customer involvement. Is there such a thing as too much customer involvement leading to interference or worse final product? What are the boundaries? When is it adding value, when is it destructive?

I advocate my juvenile approach “one unique project (not customer)- one unique everything”.

One unique project — one unique everything. By this I mean not just a unique approach to each client, or a tailored approach to each project, I mean a total reorganisation of everything: workflows, tasks allocations, team structuring, everything! It requires total abandonment of any preconceived or established ways to operate, and build applicable new way every single time per your project, per client, per your agency in the current time, (i.e. what your agency consists of now in terms of human and other resources, its current obligations and abilities).

You need to know your customer. Their business, their goals, their strategy, their ‘how’ and their ‘why’. Just like knowing your team members beyond their job descriptions, makes for better team performance, knowing your customer, will make for better customer management and workflow with that customer.

Customers come from all walks of life, you should not assume how they act and behave, but since they come to you, you should assume they don't know much about what you do and may need ‘education’ on this. You must make your value to them obvious, do not complain about them underappreciating you when they simply are not aware of the full value you can bring them.

Customer involvement brings value beyond content provision and iterative nature of project development. It can be an integral part of any agile based work process. They are the ones who have most FIRE-ENERGY-BELIEF for the project. They can hurt the work process and interrupt the flow, well not if their position is clearly outlined and role explained, just being an observer in some cases wold make customer feel part of the group and educate them. Problems like “client does not provide content on time” are less of an issue when there is this kind of peer pressure. Clear explanation and definition of customer’s role within your work, can help avoid any interruptions, you and customer are equal, if they don’t respect the set rules they can be kicked out of the process.

Why do you think car enthusiasts pay extra £ to physically go to another country and watch their car built and then deliver it themselves back home. Why should we not utilise this fire, this excitement, this drive coming from clients in web projects. Many good web agencies already practice this form of customer engagement, some are afraid due to lack of customer management skills.

Of course not all customers can be good team members, and not all follow rules, this is why we need to truly know our customers and try bring them value, rather then sell our specific specialisation or tech. WordPress is not always the best case for your customer, no matter how amazing you are at it.

I have not created any new ideas in this article, this has been discussed much more professionally by much more professional figures in web design community, but it seems these discussions fall on deaf ears.