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5 Keys to the Best Project Client Retention Rate

There is a saying, “it’s far easier to retain good customers than it is to go out and find new ones.” As an independent consultant, former PMO Director, and currently as a Project Manager who has spent over 20 years leading complex technical projects for demanding project clients, the same is true in my role.

You want that customer experience to be rewarding for both you and your client. You want the customer to feel as comfortable and confident with you leading their important projects as possible.

My motto is always, “You’re only as successful as your last customer thinks you are…” Not sure I can say it better any other way.

What can we do while we are managing our customer’s projects and managing the budgets to spend their project dollars as wisely as we can in order to end the engagement successfully?

And what can we do to provide the most satisfying customer experience so that it’s a no-brainer to whom they will turn if and when they need a similar project handled again?

Customer satisfaction is everything to customer retention, and good customer references from our best customers help us gain new business. For me, it boils down – at least in part – to focusing on project management best practices. But also comes down to fairly logical, but dedicated ongoing close focus to things that are near and dear to our customers’ hearts. Let’s consider these.

Timely, accurate status reporting.

Customer satisfaction often begins with good status reporting. A regular, detailed, and accurate project status report plays the dual role of showing the project client that you are on top of the project, that the project information is up to date, and – hopefully – that the project is in good control.

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Even better, make sure you’ve interacted with the client to find out exactly what they want to see on the weekly status report. Don’t waste your time, though, producing fifteen different status reports for fifteen different entities or stakeholder groups. Do yourself a favor and find one format that works for everyone. The Project Manager already has enough on their plate and often is managing more than one project at a time, so try to keep it as simple as possible. But keep it regular – don’t skip weeks even if there is no real change. The customer still wants to know you’re on top of it.

A detailed, revised project scheduled delivered frequently.

As important as a regular, accurate status report is, a revised project schedule in the hands of the project customer and team is just as important. The customer doesn’t want two or three weeks to go by and be looking at the same project schedule showing the same task progress as three weeks ago. What does that say to them? It says no progress has been made. That is not a good step toward project retention. Your team has made progress – show it.

Regular sponsor/customer contact.

I always say that formal weekly project status meetings or calls with the customer are important. Certainly you’re probably in contact with the customer several times a week by phone or email, and that type of contact is critical and does help with customer retention. But you and your team get to really shine every week on the status call and show what you’ve accomplished, get the information you need from the customer and get decisions made. Take advantage of it.

Budget management and accountability.

You’re managing – for the most part – someone else’s money. Sure, you’re accountable to your senior management, probably even the CFO of your company, for the profitability of the project. But the funding comes from the customer and a project budget that goes crazy could cause a project to get canceled mid-stream. That could end up being a complete waste of the customer’s dollars and will not end in high client satisfaction or a retained customer.

Related Article: Are Your Sponsors and Clients Satisfied?

Manage the budget closely. Every week you should get new actual charges against the project from accounting, revise the project budget forecast, and analyze what the budget health looks like.

A 10% budget overrun can be corrected fairly easily. A 50% or 60% overrun cannot and may not ever be corrected. If you’re managing the budget closely every week, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever go past 10% over. You can quickly plan with your team – and possibly even your project customer – on what corrective action you may need to take. Your customer wants you to succeed. They are there to help. Trust me.

Team control.

The Project Manager, who is leading and appears to be in control of their team throughout the engagement, is more likely to retain the customer and help see that the current project leads to more projects and more revenue.

Conflict resolution, team collaboration, and project team member communication are all key responsibilities of the Project Manager and, if done right, keep the team in control and focused on the goals and mission of the project keeping the project on track toward success. Project success equals customer satisfaction, and customer satisfaction equals project success.

Summary / call for input

Our project customers are important. Our projects are complex. Our project teams are skilled and work hard to complete projects successfully – often working several projects at once. Just as we project managers are also leading several projects and project teams at once. The job asks a lot of us with no guarantees of big rewards or even recognition at the end.

So, we take lots of pride in being able to see projects through from conception to completion and to end them successfully by rolling the solution out to a project client’s anxiously awaiting end user base. When we do that, we are putting our stamp on the project. Success often leads to future work with this very same client, either in the form of upgrades and add-ons to the current project or even new and more complex (and maybe even higher dollar) projects.

Customer retention is a big deal– it’s the easiest way to ensure future revenue and job security and that’s always a good thing.

What about our readers – what are your secrets to customer retention? What do you do to monitor customer satisfaction and what do you do to keep yourself in the best position to successfully deliver on your projects? What do you agree with or disagree with on this list presented here?

Brad Egeland

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 leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. He has been named the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, eBooks, white papers and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at

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