Ring-ring. It’s that one account executive calling to ask you for an update again. He sounds panicked and frustrated. His email is getting blown up by his boss and needs you to help him out. Now, his problem becomes yours.
Buzz-buzz. You just got a text message. It’s your boss. She just got looped in on an escalation email from your customer and wants answers. Oh, and there is the calendar meeting invite to meet with her in 15 minutes. Her escalation just became yours.
If you’re a Customer Success Manager or a Project Manager, your eye probably started twitching from recalling a scenario like those I just described. It’s a natural and common desire to be more efficient and proactive in your work. However, these types of scenarios where manual project status updates get out of hand can set you back. They are indeed frustrating. There’s a secret I’ll share with you so you to take back control.
But first, what does it mean to be proactive? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.”
So, if you want to avoid the fire drill, you must create and control the situation that will allow you to do so. How do you do that?
Carve out time
I can hear what you’re thinking, “But then I get pulled into other meetings and don’t have time to do what I actually blocked off time for.” Your calendar is sacred. Don’t sacrifice time in your schedule for other trivial requests. Before you accept a meeting invite from someone you should ask yourself, “Is this more important than (tasks you know are a priority)?” Remember, you have to create and control the situation, and it starts by controlling your calendar.
Document and provide answers to questions before you get asked
All it takes is one time in the pressure cooker for you to learn what is considered important to your organization. Identify what those items are and document them and distribute them proactively.
If your organization is an email-heavy organization, send an email once per week to key members of the account team and executives. If your CRM is your source of truth, log the project status, events performed, and next steps into the CRM. If meetings and PowerPoint are your company jam, schedule meetings with the key stakeholders and walk through your slides discussing what you have done, what milestones lie ahead, and how the group can help you. If you’re hot on automation, a platform like GuideCX for client onboarding, or Gainsight for customer success, will help you distribute your work automatically.
Taking control of the situation is training what others can expect from you. For you to condition their expectations to your benefit, you will need to be consistent.
There was a time as a CSM that I would receive weekly project status updates on each account that had a current professional services engagement. I knew I would get these updates via email every Friday afternoon from the project manager. Because I knew this, my flyby meetings during the week diminished. I started reading the update emails every Friday instead. I would respond with additional questions at first. Then after a few weeks, I didn’t need to because the project managers were proactively answering my questions in the email updates. My emails with questions turned into thank you emails and compliments on the work along with their attention to detail. The team trained and conditioned me to the behavior they wanted. After a year or so, those emails stopped arriving in my inbox. Guess what happened? The flyby meetings, text messages, and high priority emails became the new normal.
To be proactive and take control back into your own hands, you must create control of the situation. If you carve out the time to document and distribute answers to the questions others ask and are consistent in your delivery, soon people will know their high priority question can wait because you’ll deliver what they need on schedule… your schedule.
To view the other project management pain points, click here.