Best Practices To Ensure Your Software Development Client’s Needs Are Always Met
Focusing on customer loyalty is, or should be, an important point of focus for every business for a number of reasons—reducing churn rates, helping referrals fly in, generating more recurring orders or positive reviews without actually asking for them, and your cost per acquisition will be lower. Here, research has found that attracting a new client requires spending about five times the amount needed to retain a loyal one.
Stabilizing your client base begins by placing your current customers at the center. While it is always great to onboard new business each month, not paying adequate attention to existing clients will eventually lead to failure. Building a steady and loyal customer base doesn’t happen overnight, but investing in building a steady and loyal customer base will pay off handsomely in the long term.
Customer retention statistics tell us how long certain customers have stayed on board as paying customers. The numbers though, do not reflect the real picture. Perhaps some customers are too traditional to go somewhere else, others may not have yet found an alternative. Compared to loyal customers, those who are merely ‘retained’ may not encourage others to do business with you to the same extent – so even though they are your customers, they are not helping to grow your business.
Manage and Prevent Scope Creep in a Software Development Consultancy Team
New software is usually developed as a result of a client identifying a need, followed by specifying how the software will meet that need. This is called the “scope" of the project. The project plans are then drawn up, based on the estimates for developing and delivering the specified functionality, and a delivery date agreed.
Development then starts. At first, the project may progress smoothly. But then the customer decides there are additional requirements they forgot to mention, or want to add extra elements of functionality. As a result of these added extras, project durations are often prolonged resulting in missed deadlines, increased costs, and possibly, customer dissatisfaction and loss of credibility for your business due to late delivery.
Scope creep is a significant risk in software development projects and there are a few steps that you can take to prevent it before it morphs into a full-blown crisis:
1. Never Start Working Without a Contract
Setting expectations at the start of a project with a clearly defined written contract is essential. A written contract confirms the existence of a legal agreement for the company to start investing its resources, time, and other assets in executing the client's project. It also outlines deliverables, duties, milestones, responsibilities, and timelines. Be sure to speak with all stakeholders involved as you compile the list of requirements to ensure that none of the client expectations are overlooked.
2. There Should Be a Kickoff Meeting
A kickoff meeting allows your company executives to meet with the client or their key representatives one last time before a project starts. It presents an opportunity to iron out any issues. It may be helpful to illustrate how the new system would work from the user's perspective with mocked-up screenshots, for example, to illustrate how the process will be supported by the software.
3. Prioritize Communication with Clients
Whenever a change occurs in scope, take the initiative and talk to your client about how it fits into the overall project, and how it will impact timelines. Together with the client, work out the impact of developing the new functionality: What extra steps will be required? What effect will this have on the overall project duration? What additional costs will be incurred and how will this affect the project margin?
4. Keep An Open Mind
When the customer subsequently identifies additional elements, a reference is made to the contract. Start by reminding them what your original scope of work entailed – is the additions described or alluded to? If not, then the new development is outside scope. When a client approaches you with additional requests, present them with two options: You can either add on the requested work for an additional expense, or you can proceed with the agreed-upon scope of work. This gives the client a simple choice, and you won’t lose out on your own time and compensation.
Manage the Relationship Between the Business and Development
Developing strong development and project teams is an integral part of managing client expectations and providing clean timelines and directions for deliverables. However, communicating those to clients, developing action plans for moving forward, and establishing (from the beginning) standards for requirements and milestones are all essential.
Any issues that need clarification should be solved through thorough consultation between the two teams. If the best way to proceed is still unclear, it's time to involve the client. Doing so will ensure that the resultant action plan is based on the client's wishes, the most important stakeholder in the contract. It will also avoid software development pitfalls such as project creep and poor-quality assurance.
There are several critical areas that every project leader needs to control if their team is collaborating with a nearshored unit.
1. Project Requirements
It's risky to commence a project if the scope is not clear. The team leader must make every effort to clarify with the client what needs to be done. If the client is unsure, the software development consultancy team should create proposals for the client to review and select.
2. Communication Plan
There are many reasons why communication issues can occur during the software development lifecycle (SDLC). If you’re working with an outside company, you may not be able to reach them when needed, and when you do, there might be language issues. Time zones can also impede streamlined communication.
Of course, these aren’t the only communication hurdles: there can be a lack of updates from both ends or a lack of clarity about the project in general. To prevent these problems from derailing your project, designate a point person on each team. These individuals will serve as the people who will facilitate all communication to avoid confusion. Project leaders should also encourage their clients to inform them as soon as the scope of the project changes.
3. Cost Estimation
Most business clients get upset with upcharges later in the project. You should discuss possible scenarios with the development team before they begin the project so that you are fully aware of how different circumstances will affect the cost. This is a smart way to ensure that project creep doesn't creep in.
4. Quality Assurance
Bugs and other defects in your final product will result in a flawed piece of software that could threaten your reputation. It’s thus crucial that your development team use extensive, rigorous quality assurance (QA) processes that will help to assure teams that their project has been thoroughly evaluated and screened.
Create, Communicate, and Stick to Timelines for Deliverables and Milestones
Unclear and incoherent communication between companies and customers is a leading cause of client attrition—and can have a negative effect on the client experience. Leaving a client in the dark when things aren't going smoothly is often a costly oversight. Hitting customers with bad news about their projects close to the deadline doesn’t provide room to plan accordingly. It’s also not good business etiquette.
Both milestones and timelines need to be communicated as frequently as possible. If circumstances cause a deviation from the plan, the client should know about it and in good time. Client trust is built by creating, communicating, and adhering to a timeline.
1. Validate All the Requirements
Software developers' ultimate goal is to provide their customers with the features they require and having a well-defined requirements list is the basis for an effective software solution. An analysis of business requirements is the first and most important step in software development. It outlines the entire framework of the software and the basis for ensuring that the software is being built correctly. The requirements can be referenced at all stages, from defining the architecture to testing.
2. Split the Project Among the Best Workers
There is no such thing as a one-man show in software development, but there is also no such thing as a task that requires an army of developers. A careful allocation of tasks is necessary to ensure the right individuals are doing the right jobs. It is essential to identify strengths and weaknesses before you assign tasks. There should be enough team members so that roles are divided evenly and everyone is held accountable.
3. Outsource Any Generic Parts
Work can be outsourced to make up for resources unavailable at your end or to compensate for a lack of expertise. The process of outsourcing must be preceded by consulting with vendors, getting quotes, and selecting the most appropriate one. The deadline and scope of work must be clearly defined before the project is handed over. In this way, outsourcing can ensure the completion of the project on time and even help to reduce costs.
4. Prioritize Communication
When the deliverables don't match the desired, there is a communication breakdown. Communication between all the stakeholders—customers, the project manager, the development team, executives, and the vendors or the third parties involved—is key to the smooth execution of the project. Details, schedules, budgets, and progress reports must be communicated to everyone involved. Should a problem arise, the right person should be approached. Remember, written communication is always better than oral communication.
Other Considerations in Software Development Consultancy
Working with clients located in different time zones means that your daily schedules may not always align. As the service provider, it's your duty to factor in the client's schedule and time difference when setting deadlines, feedback cycles, and sprint meetings.
The best way to manage expectations in software development is to promise less than you can deliver as long as it fulfills the client's needs. Overdelivering will impress your clients and will likely earn repeat business and referrals. Improving customer experience in software development requires you to invest in understanding their business as much as possible.
Keep Your Clients, Grow Your Business.
Product teams are responsible for developing strong communication channels between stakeholders and generating internal and external touchpoints by setting realistic goals for internal and external stakeholders. Product managers and executives are only part of the equation as they oversee day-to-day client relationships.
Growin helps you find highly-skilled IT teams to deliver your projects faster, on time, and on budget. Our team understands the stakes and challenges involved in each IT Outsourcing project and will work to achieve your business goals from recruitment and career management to project development and delivery, helping you to build a loyal customer base while boosting your client retention rates.
With 5 million project hours under our belt, we deliver reliable services that ultimately help achieve the results your business is striving for. We’re a solid, well-established but flexible, and ready-to-adapt software development team that understands your processes, needs, and culture. By partnering up with us you won’t have to worry about a thing; we take care of our IT talent with customized training and career planning, deliver high-quality code, monitor strategic KPIs, and act on improvements fast. Schedule a call with our team today.