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Surviving a Missed Deadline: How to Salvage a Client Relationship

written by: Haley Montgomery • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 10/16/2014

You client wants fast completion of the project and your team just missed the deadline. Now what? With appropriate risk management services to client accounts, you can overcome failed expectations. This article highlights 5 steps for salvaging a client relationship after missed deadlines.

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    When the Worst Happens

    04 31 8 prev-1 Oops! You just missed your deadline. Now what? Your client wants fast completion of a project, but you haven’t lived up to your end of the bargain. How can you handle risk management services to client projects? Unfortunately, missed deadlines are sometimes part of the realities of project management, but you don’t have to lose your client because of failed expectations. Follow these five risk management communication tips for salvaging a client relationship after missing your project deadline.

    Take Responsibility.

    Don’t make excuses. Don’t pass the buck onto the team or vendors and don’t make missed deadlines your client’s fault. As the project team leader, acknowledge the mistake with humility. Taking personal responsibility for your team’s failure demonstrates your commitment to the client and his needs. It will restore a client’s respect for you and your organization much more quickly than laying blame elsewhere.

    Limit Explanations.

    Sometimes offering an explanation of the breakdown that is too detailed can actually make the situation worse. It often presents information that is confusing or overwhelming to the client. Adding confusion and misunderstanding to an already frustrating situation will only serve to fan the flames of client dissatisfaction. While it is good to acknowledge specific areas where mistakes have been made, limit the details about your team’s inner workings to generalities. Place the focus on solutions rather than errors.

    Offer Alternative Solutions.

    Don’t enter into a risk management situation empty-handed. If a deadline has been missed and project expectations have not been met, offer a secondary solution. Be realistic in what creative project solutions you can feasibly provide and make sure your solution does not incur extra costs for your client. A successful alternative can go a long way in erasing the negative impact of a missed deadline on your client relationship.

    Communicate Personally.

    Don’t rely on email. Project risk management is a task requiring a personal phone call or meeting. Don’t hedge. Bite the bullet and accept the direct reaction of your client. Show them the respect of personal communication. Follow up in writing with an apology, an overview of the solution agreed upon and acknowledge the steps to be taken to correct future problems. Reiterate the client’s value.

    Keep Your Word.

    Don’t compound one mistake with more. Rally your project team and put in the necessary extra time and money to achieve your corrective solution. End the project experience on a successful note.

    Maintaining strong client relationships is a primary concern during these times of economic recession. Despite the pitfalls of project management breakdowns, these five risk management communication tips will help you successfully smooth a client relationship that has been strained by missed deadlines.

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