Clients want reliability. They rely on you and your project to complete the quoted scope to schedule and to budget. They also expect you to do what you say you will do. They expect you to follow up on what you say.
Sometimes a project starts to get delayed (for example, due to client delays, internal resource delays, unexpected site conditions, regulatory delays etc). Although these delays may not be your fault, the client still expects you to solve these issues and deliver on time.
Some project managers fail to keep the client fully informed on what is happening with the project. Such that when the project fails to meet a key milestone or runs over schedule, the client is surprised, as they did not know of the issues.
Clients don’t like surprises. They prefer to know about problems, even if they will cause delays or extra costs.
Some project managers also tell their clients they will do something (such as “I will send you that report tomorrow”). Then they fail to do what they said they will do. This erodes the trust that the client has in you.
The end result is a dissatisfied client, bad ratings on your and the projects performance, and sometimes bad reviews of your company as a whole.
Always be reliable.
You should keep the client as well informed on the progress and status of your project as possible.
This should include regular scheduled communication (such as a weekly update email of simple report, and a monthly formal update report). It could also include regular informal phone calls to provide updates, however those updates should be reflected in the written correspondence (for your and their records).
If you tell the client (by phone, in person, in writing or in a meeting) that you or the project will do something (such as to deliver by a certain date, or in a certain way) then you should make sure that is done. If conditions change and that commitment cannot be done, you should inform the client as soon as possible. It is better they know than to leave them wondering when it will be done.
Do not try to hide project issues or risks from the client. Keep them fully informed of these issues and risks, so that they are not surprised later if they eventuate.
This applies not just to external clients, but also to your managers, colleagues, projects that you are providing input to etc.
You should aim to become known as someone who does what you said you would do. You should be known for being reliable.
If you manage a team of project managers, I think you should implement a template for project reporting. This report would show the key information that you need from the projects so that you are informed about progress, issues, and risks.
Ideally it should be just one page
Ideally you would make this template such that it is the same as that sent to the client, or that can have just a small change before being sent to the client (such as removing internal cost reporting). Having the same template removes duplicating the work. However make sure the title at the top specifies “internal project report” and “client project report”
Be reliable. You should follow up on what you say you will do. If you cannot deliver the agreed scope in terms of schedule, cost or delivery, then you should tell the client so that they are not surprised by the later failure. If you are able to resolve the issue and then deliver better than they now expect, that is great.
It is better to have a client who is aware of the issues and potential delays, changes or extra costs. This way they will be less disappointed later, and it also leaves you the opportunity to get their support or assistance in resolving issues.
You should communicate with the client regularly and clearly.