By now, you probably understand that communication is paramount to a project successful landing— it's the lifeblood of the whole project. Communication starts before the project even begins and carries on steadily throughout the remainder of the project. In this video, I'm going to explain how using soft skills like negotiation, delivering messages with empathy, and asking questions for clarity helps to foster and strengthen communication. We'll also discuss feedback as a foundation for iterating on a product. According to the Project Management Institute, it's been found that most projects experience a communication breakdown of some kind, even though project managers spend about 90% of their time working on communication alone. It's in a project manager's best interest to communicate tactfully, not only with the members of their own organization, but also with customers and vendors. When done well, strategic communication with a customer or client can instill a sense of confidence that you're doing a good job and that you're a trustworthy partner. So how should a project manager approach communication with a customer? Using soft skills like negotiation, empathetic listening, and trust building, will help foster a good relationship between you and your customers, and a good project manager knows how and when to apply these skills. A key practice for negotiation, empathetic listening, and trust building is asking questions. It's important to ask open-ended questions and actively listen to understand the customer's current state versus their desired state and what might help them get from here to there. If you ask open-ended questions, you'll find out where you can make your customers feel more secure. You'll be able to negotiate to ensure both of your needs are met, and you'll build the necessary trust to have a successful partnership. High-performing project managers set clear expectations about when they'll communicate certain things to their customers. For example, you might want to set an expectation that you'll provide weekly progress updates to keep clients informed, rather than expecting them to come to you with questions. When troubleshooting an issue with the product, it might not be necessary to fill the customer in on an issue that won't affect the outcome. Let's say a designer on your team quit and you had to replace them, you may be able to replace that designer with a new one fairly quickly and not even skip a beat in your project's progress. You can complete the task at hand without giving the customer any additional worry. The level of visibility between customers and clients on a given project may vary, and you'll have to use your judgment regarding what's important to communicate to your client. Sometimes, you'll want to tell your client if there's an issue. If you reach a point in the project where you can't possibly move forward without their help and input, you'll have to communicate the issue to them calmly and with empathy. Let's put this into Project Plant Pals context, where we're troubleshooting an issue with broken planters. Maybe when we were putting together our quality standards, we left some room for supplier error and accounted for some broken planters. We'll say we figured an acceptable number of broken planters was two out of every 50. But let's imagine that the customer received a shipment and there were five broken planters. At that point, we'll need to meet with the customer and ask important negotiation questions. We'll need to decide if the five broken planters out of every 50 is an acceptable outcome, or we'll need to discuss whether the customer would consider investing in a higher tier of planters that may be less prone to breaking. Presenting a solution like using sturdier planters will affect their budget, and they'll need to adjust accordingly. Is the customer okay with that change? Would that lead to another trade off? Keeping in mind that the main goal here is customer satisfaction throughout the negotiation process, you'll want to be considerate of their feelings and limitations. You can do this by exhibiting empathy: understanding their frustrations, addressing them, and finding a solution that's beneficial for both of you. You may have held a customer-facing role in the past, whether that's in a call center, as a retail associate, as a server in a restaurant, or any number of positions. Even if you haven't, you've probably been an advocate for yourself while conversing with a customer service representative. Because of this, you'll probably have a good idea of what good customer service looks like. Good customer service results in choosing to go back to the same hair salon, bakery, or coffee shop because you liked the way that you were treated and the service you received (even if you had an issue), versus choosing not to go back to those places if you don't receive that level of care. Your past experiences have taught you to manage relationships and to avoid delivering something that's low quality. It doesn't feel great when you're on the receiving end. In order to yield better results in future projects, it's necessary to get feedback from customers. Sometimes, this feedback will come during the process, and sometimes, it'll come after the project is completed, depending on how you map it out in the initiation phase. The matter of when you receive feedback may come down to what you actually want to accomplish in your project. If your business is launching an e-commerce site, you will want user feedback so you can make adjustments to optimize the customers' shopping experience. If your business is an on-demand cookie delivery service, you may want to deliver the cookies and then get user feedback to know how your customers felt about the cookies and the delivery experience as a whole. User feedback helps to close any gaps and understanding between the customer's expectation and the project's needs. So to summarize very briefly, soft skills like negotiation, empathetic listening, and trust-building will help create a good relationship between you and your customers, and getting feedback from those customers will help you to iterate on a product or service. That's a lot of information—great job taking it all in! We'll get a little more specific with user testing and feedback in the next video. I'll meet you there.