More Transparent Client Relationships

I've had a hand in shaping four of the software products out there, including the two with the largest installed base. And for ten years I've been clamoring for more transparency, enabled primarily by allowing a client to log into your project management software (that's not BaseCamp, by the way) and seeing the status of things. For one thing, why make the AE do that? Every client is different, and this would let them interact with the data on their own terms, with selectable update options to boot.

Why hasn't this caught on? Two reasons:

  • Firms say something will take three weeks of work but they don't even start it until four days before the deadline, and this way the client would know that.
  • Firms are afraid of interferance in the creative process, where I think it should be more collaborative and with no "big reveals" as we call them.

Anyway, I was chatting about this with a client of mine, Greg Daake, who has a firm in Omaha. He has been thinking the same thing, and so I asked him to write some thoughts on this. Here's Greg:

I feel client's crave authenticity to our operations. Here's my wish list for the ultimate client portal by content type.

  • List view of all and who's in charge of them from both ends (client and agency).
  • Should reveal what stage the project is in, what stages are complete, and what's upcoming.
  • Agency to-do list (with completed ones visible, but shown as done and who in the agency is responsible for it) and a client to-do list (with completed ones visible, but shown as done and which contact at the client is responsible for it).
  • Show a pie-chart of the budget with two wedges: what's left to use and what's used up. If a user rolls their mouse over a wedge more details emerge such as a % or $ amount. A third wedge would appear in a contrasting color that showed how the pie became larger through change orders.
  • Associated assets: proofs (the interactive type that can be marked up on screen with teams, like ProofHQ or ConceptShare), files (sortable by type: copy, image, motion, audio), brainstorming (this could be audio from our internal meetings where we throw out ideas, sketches, research, etc…).
  • Read the approved "statement of work."
  • Download/read the approved "proposal/bid/estimate" to match.
  • A running dialogue (like a blog) about the project. Agency team members make client friendly notes about the project and the client makes notes about the project. Each note is tagged with who said it with a photo of themselves. Team members and client members get notified by email for each new comment. Clients would customize the delivery of those comments.
  • There should be a button and subsequent simple form for a client to make a change order. Encourage clients to use this and be accountable for it. If they still send an email, then the agency uses it so that it's visible in the client portal.
  • There should be a "writeboard" for interaction on copy ideas.
  • For closed projects, download all native files used (with the exception of fonts and rejected concept work). For fonts, post the names of the fonts used and a link where the client can go purchase their own license.
  • Download for the final invoice(s).
  • Show the entire agency team, with pictures.
  • Show each team member's DISC profile with a little clarity on what it should mean to the client.
  • Ask the client to participate in the same way, if they are willing.
  • Show each team member's full contact information
  • Show each team member's interests and/or other personal, brief bio.
  • Anytime the client sees a note from a team member, they can access the full details of that team member.
  • Show each team member's vacation schedule.
  • Firms's Twitter feed.
  • Slideshow of latest projects to keep clients up to date on your capabilities.
  • Blog feed.
  • Live webcam feed.
  • What's on our screens right now (random screenshots of what's on all/some of the team members screens at any given time).
  • A simple survey to measure client satisfaction.
  • A client's branded elements, consisting of approved copy blocks, tagged images, mandatory disclaimers, templates, etc.
  • Notifications/reminders: Change orders that need approval. Proposals to approve (or not) and the ability to do it right there on screen. Deadlines approaching, to-do's that are overdue.
  • File uploads, maybe using the API from a product like Sharefile. Or some seamless method for clients to send large files or groups of files that can't escape their 10mb Outlook environments.
  • Retrieve large files in the same way.
  • Built-in screensharing using a proven tool (like GoToMeeting).
  • Industry headlines posted on the site for the client to read. We, as the agency, would setup RSS feeds to specific verticals that we work with and port those headlines into their world.
  • Accessible via mobile platforms.
  • Oh, and one giant search bar over the whole damn thing (with advanced search capabilities for filtering).

What would you add or subtract? I'd like to see your thoughts.

Thanks Greg. We're on the same page here!

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