Too Much Information?
You Can Never Provide a Client Too Much Information
Several times over the last year, we’ve had to modify the project schedule for a client in New Jersey, one of the largest retirement entities in the eastern United States. Nothing unusual there—schedules are often adjusted as the realities of a client’s own activities block the way. Our project schedules are divided into essentially three phases: Research and Editorial; Archival Search and Design; Manufacturing and Shipping. In each phase, there are periods for client review and revisions and certainly some overlap. For us, the schedules (and their updates) are important because they allow us to properly allocate talent and resources and (just as importantly) give us an idea of when we can invoice for completion of key phases. We have to eat, right? For the client, however, the schedule is even more critical. At Bookhouse, we have but a handful of people on a project at any given time, but a client might have as many as fifteen or more people reviewing each stage. Additionally, they often have dates and events to work around. By seeing a schedule in advance, they can immediately advise us of a conflict (try having an educational institution client focus during the week of graduation) and we can make adjustments.
At least that’s the ideal process. But in this case, the schedule for our client—the continuing care retirement community (CCRP) in New Jersey—kept slipping further behind, a few days here, a week there; it was adding up as other aspects of the client’s business took front and center. After we were in the design phase, we ceased providing updated schedules because all the previous versions noted that no matter when we went to press, it would be 84 days from there until delivery of the book (we were printing this book out of the country, thus a longer manufacturing time). We assumed they saw and understood this, right? Wrong. Once again, we came to realize that clients should not be expected to remember every detail of the process or every word of the contract. To say, “But we sent you the schedule,” is an easy out and doesn’t do the client any good. Doubtless, we could have done a better job of not only sending updated schedules, but also reminding them in the email cover notes as well as other communications.