Minimum Viable Excellence to ensure quality across all your client interactions
Minimum Viable Excellence to ensure quality across all your client interactions
Published on 15 January 2024
What sets a good digital agency apart from a GREAT one?
Often, it’s all about how we handle the small things – those day-to-day interactions and processes. You need to set your own gold standard for quality in every client interaction.
I like to call this ‘Minimum Viable Excellence’.
It’s not about doing the bare minimum, it’s more about setting your baseline that guarantees every project, every client chat, and every internal process shines with excellence. We need to create a consistent, top-notch experience for clients, no matter the project size or who they’re dealing with on our team.
This subtle but important adjustment has a hugely positive impact on perception and performance.
Defining your standards leads to happier clients, more repeat business and referrals. Internally, having clear expectations of quality means everyone is working in the same direction, helps decision making, and boosts confidence across the team.
Client communications and Project delivery
The difference between good and great often lies in the nuances of client relations and project delivery, so it’s essential to focus on these two critical areas.
1. Excellence in Client Communications
➡️ Be Prompt and Clear: Timely responses are valued. Ensure that your communication is not only prompt but crystal clear. This reduces misunderstandings and builds client trust.
➡️ Humanise the Interaction: Behind every email or chat message is an actual human. Personalising your communication and showing empathy can go a long way in forging strong, lasting relationships.
2. Mastery in Project Delivery
➡️ Adherence to Deadlines: Deadlines are sacred.*Sticking to them is a clear indicator of your professionalism and respect for the client’s time and resources.
➡️ Clarity on Milestones: Keep the client informed about project milestones.* Transparency in your process not only keeps clients at ease but also showcases your organisational skills.
➡️ Transparent Operations: Be upfront about challenges or changes in scope.* This level of honesty in operations builds credibility and trust, key ingredients for repeat business and referrals.
* If your client misses a dependency, tell them! Explain the impact AND what you suggest can be done to get things back on track.
Incorporating these practices into your daily operations transforms your team from just being a service provider to a valued partner. You should not only be meeting the client’s needs; you need to be anticipating them, understanding them, and delivering on them with excellence every time.
I know it’s cliché, but always underpromise and overdeliver - especially on the little things
Internal processes are key
Most digital agencies are just one chaotic project away from a breakdown – and it’s all about internal processes… (or lack thereof 🤮)
Achieving excellence is as much about refining internal processes as it is about client interaction. Here’s what’s important:
1. The Foundation of Excellence: Defined Internal Processes
Establishing clear, well-defined internal processes is the foundation of operational excellence. It’s about having a set of guidelines that everyone understands and follows, ensuring consistency in how projects are tackled and managed.
For example: Implement a standardised project kick-off checklist that every team member uses. This might include steps like client briefing, resource allocation, and setting initial timelines. It ensures everyone starts on the same page and follows the same path to starting the project.
2. Process Efficiency: The Catalyst for Client Satisfaction
When internal processes run like a well-oiled machine, the impact extends beyond just the team. It leads to smoother project execution, timely deliveries, and ultimately, higher client satisfaction. Streamlining these processes isn’t just about internal benefits; it’s a direct investment in your client relationships.
For example: Use a project management tool that tracks progress, deadlines, and responsibilities. For instance, a dashboard that visually represents project timelines and milestones can help keep the team aligned and identify any potential delays before they become issues. Your internal team AND the client should have visibility of this.
3. Internal Process Review: A Commitment to Continuous Improvement
Regularly revisiting and refining these processes is vital. It’s not about setting up a system and forgetting it. It’s about evolving with each project, learning from experiences, and continuously looking for ways to do better.
For example: Run quarterly process review meetings where team members can discuss what’s working and what’s not. Use these sessions to gather feedback on tools, communication channels, and workflow efficiencies. Adjust processes based on this collective input to ensure continuous improvement as well as team buy-in.
4. From Processes to Culture: Embedding Excellence in the team’s DNA
Over time, these refined processes become more than guidelines; they become your team’s culture. A culture where excellence is the norm, where every team member instinctively knows the value of quality and efficiency.
For example: Celebrate instances where following internal processes has led to success. This could be through acknowledging a team’s effective communication during a project or highlighting how adherence to workflow standards resulted in positive client feedback. This kind of recognition helps ingrain these processes as part of the team’s culture.
By focusing on and constantly refining these internal processes, a digital agency not only enhances its operational efficiency but also lays the groundwork for consistent, high-quality service delivery. This internal excellence is a critical component in distinguishing a good agency from a great one.
Make a checklist
Here’s some examples of areas your checklist should include:
👉 Client comms: always prompt, super clear, and remember they are humans too!
👉 Project delivery: Stick to deadlines, be clear on milestones, be transparent
👉 Client feedback: ask for it, implement it
👉 Internal processes: Make project management efficient and non-negotiable (you do have a defined process for this already, right? If it’s a spreadsheet, we need to have words)
👉 Team collaboration: Encourage 2 way feedback, celebrate wins, learn from losses
This is all well and good, but to actually implement your standards they need to become second nature in your team. You need to make them a habit.
Building habits will help you win
So how do you instill these values so deeply that they become second nature?
➡️ Integrate Standards into Daily Routines: Begin by integrating your standards into everyday activities. Whether it’s during your morning stand-up meetings or through regular team check-ins, consistently reinforce these values. The constant reminder helps keep the team aligned.
➡️ Utilise Tools for Tracking and Accountability: Leverage the technology and tools at your disposal. Whether it’s project management software or communication tools, use them not just for tracking progress but also for upholding your standards of excellence. When everyone can see how they’re contributing to the team’s high standards, it builds a sense of responsibility and pride.
➡️ Set Time for Regular Reviews: Allocate time for your team to review how they’re doing against these standards. This isn’t just about finding areas for improvement; it’s also an opportunity to celebrate successes and learn from challenges. Regular reviews encourage a culture of continuous improvement. (If you haven’t already tried it, Lattice is a great tool for this - or even something more simple like Notion).
➡️ Invest in Training and External Expertise: Sometimes, bringing in fresh perspectives can make all the difference. Don’t hesitate to host training sessions on key focus areas, and consider bringing in external experts when needed. This not only boosts your team’s skills but also demonstrates your commitment to maintaining high standards.
These standards aren’t just a checklist; they are a testament to your commitment to being the best in the business. By making them a habitual part of your team’s life, you’re not just meeting expectations – you’re exceeding them, both your clients’ and your own.
The transformation from good to great isn’t just about what you do; it’s about how consistently and intentionally you do it.
The bottom line - a commitment to being the best
Wrapping it up, the whole idea of ‘Minimum Viable Excellence’ comes down to this: doing the little things right, every single time. It’s about setting a standard that’s realistic yet consistently above average. Think of it as your team’s secret sauce – it’s not hard, but it makes all the difference.
It’s in the way you talk to clients, stick to deadlines, and manage your team’s workflow. These aren’t just tasks; they’re opportunities to show you’re not just another agency. By making excellence a habit, you’re basically ensuring that every part of your operation screams reliability and quality.
It isn’t about big, sweeping changes. It’s about tweaking the everyday stuff – your calls, meetings, even your internal messages – to make sure they’re as sharp as they can be. Keeping things straightforward yet efficient is the key.
Stick to your standards, keep refining your processes, and make sure everyone’s on the same page. Do that, and you’re not just doing good work; you’re setting the bar for what great work looks like.
Keep it simple and keep it excellent.
About the author: Jon Munson
As a Digital Delivery and Operations Consultant, I have honed my skills while working with some of the most dynamic and
innovative digital agencies in the industry.
I've had the opportunity to work with teams that are punching well above their weight, and I understand the unique
challenges they need to overcome.
I’ve worked as a developer, project manager, producer, head of operations and delivery lead.
Now it’s time for me to help teams like yours grow and win!
3 ways I can help you:
Consulting for your business: I'll work with your team to develop or improve processes around how you deliver work, operate your business, and give your customers a great experience.
Coaching your team: I'll coach your team to level them up, implement process, or support them through any issues they are facing - no matter what their experience level.
1-2-1 Coaching: From junior project manager, to operations director - I'll work with you to get where you want to be,
coaching you through challenges and process every step of the way.
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