Get scripts for reaching out to a client to discuss early signs of scope creep, how scope changes are handled, and their impact on the project.
What’s the comeback for when the scope of work for a project is beginning to expand and I want to nip it in the bud before it gets out of control?
With that said, in client services, there is always a little wiggle in the scope of work because we’re not hard-nosed a-holes… well, at least I’m not!
The best client relationships are partnerships with open, honest communication and a bit of realistic give and take. I’ve written before about my approach to plan for a little generosity in every project but to offer that generosity with clear boundaries. This approach works especially well to reign in scope creep during the design revisions project phase
With that said, scope creep is damaging to project outcomes and client relationships — and to prevent it, you first must understand what it is.
Scope creep is the term used to reference a project phenomenon where the scope of work slowly starts to expand as clients make requests for more or extra work.
When managed well and done with a proper change management process, scope creep is a positive experience. Good scope creep allows clients to get more support and grow their engagement with you, while ensuring you are paid for your time and the extra work requested.
Unfortunately, the term scope creep is most often used with negative connotations, referring to out-of-control projects and extra requests that fail to also include the proper budget increases. But scope creep isn’t always bad.
Scope creep only becomes bad when it is mismanaged and ignored.
- If a client makes a request that is outside the scope of work, it’s up to you to point that out, hold your boundary, explain the change order process, and invite the client to take the next step to make the request official.
- If the requests start out small and you agree to them, but then the requests keep on coming, you must be proactive about educating the client about the change order process and explaining the implications of their requests.
That means reaching out and having a conversation about the existing scope of work, new work, and the change order process.
What to say in your initial message of concern…
I’m reaching out because I’ve noticed that the scope of work for this project is slowly expanding. While small changes to the scope are normal, we’re nearing the point where it expands beyond our current contract and becomes more serious.
Let’s schedule a meeting to review the current scope, the changes and additions that need to be made, and their impacts on the budget and timeline for the remainder of the project.
My goal is to make sure we’re both on the same page and there are no surprises at the end.
Here’s a link to schedule a meeting.
If they don’t respond about scheduling a conversation…
I hope you received my message about the concerns I have with the scope of work expanding. I haven’t heard back yet, so I wanted to check-in.
While small changes to the scope are normal and able to be absorbed into the overall project cost, we’re nearing the point where it expands beyond our current contract and becomes more serious.
I’m hitting pause on your project until we can have a conversation about the current scope, the changes and additions that need to be made, and their impacts on the budget and timeline for the remainder of the project.
Hopefully, I hear back from you soon so we don’t have to push out the final launch date. I hope you understand that my goal is to make sure we’re both on the same page and there are no surprises at the end.
Here’s a link to schedule a meeting.
These scripts are just two you’ll find in Confident Comebacks, a collection of professional client service scripts that will help you quickly and confidently craft firm, fair, friendly responses to sticky client situations.
Turn Scope Creep Around
Again, if you’re proactive with the management of client requests you can turn scope creep into an opportunity to increase the value of your projects and enhance your client relationships.
By acknowledging the request early, communicating that the request is out of scope but doable, and having a frank conversation about the potential budget and timeline implications, you’re helping the client make an educated decision you both can feel good about.
And, if you’d like more scripts for how to respond to extra requests that are out of scope, check out this article on approaching client requests with a can-do attitude instead of a can’t attitude. It makes a world of difference!