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3 Steps to Improved Customer Relations: Give Something Away

Let’s face it – things rarely go perfectly on our project engagements. Even when we think things are moving along smoothly, we sometimes find out that there is an issue causing a certain amount of unrest with our project client.

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How we find out can vary enormously:

  • It can be an email to the project manager – that’s the preferred way.
  • It can be a discussion on a project status call – that’s appropriate.
  • It can be a customer showing up at your office.
  • And, worst of all, it can be a customer call to your senior management, possibly even your CEO.

We really don’t want any of these things to happen, but they can and will from time to time, we just never want it to get to the point of contacting the CEO.

customer relationship management

In this three-part series I want to look at several things we can do to improve customer relations throughout the project life cycle to keep things fresh with the customer, keep them well-engaged and happy, and most of all to improve relations with the customer so at the end of the engagement they walk away with a feeling that you went above and beyond the call of duty for them while handling their project.

Free is never forgotten

The first concept I’d like to discuss is one of giving something away. And by that, yes, I mean for free. Rarely does someone forget when they’ve been given something for free – especially if it’s something they never requested.

I was at my favorite pizza restaurant for my birthday the other day and my wife mentioned the special occasion to our waitress. At the end of the meal – to my surprise – she brought out a cannoli with a birthday candle and wished me a happy birthday.

“It was free – and it was great. Free is good – free makes customers happy.”

It was free – and it was great. Free is good – free makes customers happy.

Discounting your product or services works, too, but the only problem with that is once you’ve discounted something it’s very hard to ever charge that customer full price for that service again, they’ve made a mental note of that price and they will always expect that price and if you try to charge them more, they may look elsewhere. But free is free, and customers are smart enough to know that it’s a freebie and it’s usually a gift, a one time occurrence.

What can you give away?

It depends on your industry, your project, and your customer. But let’s say you’re negotiating a change order on an IT project due to some new customer requirements. Perhaps you price out the entire change order but show a discount of giving them two new reports that they are request in that package for free.

It may be a $20,000 change order and you’ve just given them $2,000 worth of work free. It’s not a lot, but it is a 10% savings and they will appreciate it. It shows that you appreciate them as a customer and want very much to work with them long term.

You can also certainly do things like this when relations are very strained for whatever reason, but I would highly recommend giving the project client a larger free service or deliverable – it can make the difference between making them feel like you really want to make things right and just making a ‘token’ effort.


“…everyone likes to get something for nothing – especially if it’s something they want or need…”

The bottom line is everyone likes to get something for nothing – especially if it’s something they want or need. You can do a lot to improve customer satisfaction by negotiating something free for them during the project engagement.

It may be a report, an important project plan or document that was already planned into the project workload, or it may just be 40 hours of free technical assistance during user acceptance testing on the project. Whatever you choose, it will stick in their minds and it certainly won’t hurt relations and it will likely improve relations with the customer overall.

In Part 2, we’ll examine the importance of getting your senior management involved in the project as a way to improve customer relations and satisfaction.

Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience.
Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.
Visit Brad's site.

Posted on:  in Leadership, Project World