Ask. Listen. Gut Check.

Agency Leadership

One of the challenges we see on accounts is the time it can take to get back to a client on a request, especially when it is technical. There are different reasons for the delays, but a common one is how long it takes to estimate work.

Here is an example interaction with a client, along with the inner dialogue of the team.

  • Client: We feel like we should give customers the ability to customize their bundle. Can we add that to this page?
  • Team: (Uh oh, that is not in scope! Scope creep sucks. I could tell them it's not in scope, but maybe we can make it work. I'll feel better telling them when I know the effort). Interesting. That makes sense! It will definitely offer customers more variety. We can get back to you on the effort to add this feature.
  • Client: Sounds good.

A client recently told me how often she and her team throw out ideas during our meetings. They do it to brainstorm, and when ideas seem worthy, they're curious to understand what's possible. In her words, "a gift message option seems cool, but not if it costs $10k."

When the above dialogue happens, it takes us days (hopefully not weeks) to come back with the $10k price tag. The client may decide to move forward or put it on hold. Sometimes, the client feels frustrated because they thought the work was in scope, having discussed it in a meeting. If I'm not closely involved in the work, this is where I end up getting involved.

Last week, this scenario came up. After chatting with the team, I realized that we're not estimating the work to figure out if it is in scope. We're estimating to get to an accurate number. However, from the start, the team knows whether the request is in scope and roughly what the effort may be. This is where the "gut check" comes in.

Rather than jump to estimation, there's an opportunity to dig deeper to understand the context of every request. Is it an idea or a business need? From there, we can use our gut to anchor the client if the request still makes sense.

  • Client: We feel like we should give customers the ability to customize their bundle. Can we add that to this page?
  • Team: Interesting, it would offer customers more variety. Is this a request you currently hear from customers?
  • Client: Not really. We think that a first-time customer could benefit from a sampler vs. committing to one flavor.
  • Team: Ah, a sampler makes sense. From a logistics standpoint, could you offer a sampler now?
  • Client: We could. Maybe that would work.
  • Team: Oh, great. Based on what you've told me, a sampler bundle seems like the right approach. However, let us know if adding bundle customization is a priority. It's not currently in our scope, but my guess is that it's at least a $15k effort.
  • Client: Ah, I see. I thought it was fairly simple. Let's hold off on now. We'll let you know if we decide it's a priority.

In this exchange, the team and client know exactly where each other stands. By getting curious, the team understands the background of the request, so the scope discussion is that much easier. The team may not know the full effort needed to complete the task, but anchoring the client helps them align on what's important and what next steps make sense.

This post originally appeared in Edition No. 079 of my newsletter. Subscribe here.

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