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Dealing with Project Delays: 5 Ways to Talk With Your Client

written by: Haley Montgomery • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 3/22/2013

Communicating information about project delays can be difficult when your client expects timely progress. However, delays are a normal part of risk management services. Read on for 5 tips on how to effectively communicate with a client about project delays.

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    Project Delays: An Unavoidable Risk

    Article Image Your client wants fast completion of a project--most of them do. Unfortunately, your team may not always get the job done in the time you’ve allotted. Dealing with project delays is a necessary part of successful project management. Plus, how you communicate with a client about those delays can greatly affect your future relationship. Consider these five tips for communicating with a client about project delays while maintaining your professional reputation.

    1. Communicate Early and Often.

    When handling project risk management services to clients, bad news is better than no news. If a project is behind schedule and intermediate deadlines have been missed, communicate immediately with your client. Don’t make her wonder what’s going on with her project. Even if your team hasn’t lived up to a customer’s expectations, you can maintain a professional reputation and give the impression of being on top of things if you continue to communicate clearly.

    2. Take Responsibility.

    Don’t pass the buck or lay blame with team members or vendors. As the project manager, take responsibility for the delay in fulfilling project plans. Offering explanations that push the blame onto others only serves to make you look ineffective as a manager and out of control on your own project.

    3. Offer a Plan to Get Back on Track.

    Don’t approach a risk management situation empty handed. Make sure your client knows you have the final deadline well in command and offer an intermediate schedule to achieve the original goals. Make sure you are up to date on all the project parameters before you speak with the client so that you can fully and clearly answer his questions about project completion.

    4. Be Realistic.

    Don’t over-promise. It is better to under-promise and over-deliver than compound your project delay with another set-back. Work out team solutions first rather than promising a solution you haven’t thought through carefully. Touch base with any vendors involved to be sure they can accommodate a revised project schedule. Since early project delays mean you don’t have much “wiggle room” to meet final deadlines, don’t forget to factor in the details like shipping or production time required to finalize a project.

    5. Communicate Personally.

    It’s often best to communicate about negative concerns via phone or in person rather than through email. Addressing the issue personally communicates respect and assures your client that his project is valuable. It also gives you the opportunity to gauge a customer’s reaction to the delay more accurately with verbal cues, allowing you to address additional concerns before they have a chance to fester.

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