The last thing that we do on any day in most projects and companies is making it through the client calls.
Client calls are an integral and important part of how work gets coordinated and communication channels are kept open in IT teams.
Client calls are fun when they are short and the tasks are on track and the client’s expectations are met. When that’s not the case, client calls can lead to lot of anxiety, angst, disappointment and demotivation.
What can we do to help ourselves in this context?
Good communication skills, language and accent expertise, positive attitude where we take blame when due, engaging with the client on a personal level, saying ‘yes’- are a few things that can help, but unfortunately, that’s not enough.
What more do we need then?
That is exactly where this article comes in handy. This is our attempt to outline the many stages where client interaction takes place in a QA Project and a few tips in each one that can help.
What You Will Learn:
#1) Client call during requirement analysis
Once software requirements document for a new project to test is handed over, we have got to be thorough in understanding all the implicit and explicit areas of the software. This phase needs a good quality client call for clarifications and to enhance our interpretation of the product.
Read more => How to test requirements documents
A few aspects to keep in mind:
- Prepare: Go through requirements thoroughly before posting questions
- Make a list: Note the questions down ahead of time and prioritize the list if necessary. To be safe, try to keep a hard copy of the questions because access to a computer might become difficult in some conference rooms and there might be last minute failures too.
- Solve internally first: Check within your team members or available dev or BA first
- Give heads up: If possible, send the list of questions to the client via email so they can prepare too
- Discuss: Be concise, precise, to the point and don’t feel shy to ask again, if not clear
- Record: Write down the clarifications provided
- Suggest: Make enhancement suggestions on requirements when applicable
- Inform: Let the client know what the subsequent actions are
- Follow up to closure: email the outcome of the discussion to make sure all ideas and thoughts are aligned.
#2) Client calls during Test planning:
There might be a call at this stage for feedback and these are the things to take care of:
- Make sure the client has the latest test plan document and that it has been internally reviewed before sending out.
- Allow the client ample time for review
- When possible, ask the client to send review comments via email first
- When the client expresses that the comments can be discussed via email or that they are OK with the document as is, please proceed to the next step and keep the client updated about what that is
#3) Client calls during traceability matrix creation
For projects following forward traceability, we move on to dividing requirements into smaller functionalities with all possible scenarios and create traceability matrix after the test plan is done. This is usually reviewed by client so they can check the coverage and provide their approval on it, and we can move on.
The following points are to be noted to make this interaction simpler:
- Like test plan the matrix should also be thoroughly peer reviewed before sending for client review.
- Ask for comments via email, when possible
- When the comments are sent via email, discuss the comments with the team, so you can directly get to explain the resolution on each one in the call- again, discuss only the priority cases. The rest can wait for email.
- Get confirmation if scripting can be started
- If you have any questions or inhibitions about the script creations stage, be sure to have them clarified in this call.
#4) Client calls during Test scripting
This phase is longer than the last ones and client calls can be more intense.
These points can help:
- Meet the deadlines: Try to meet or exceed targets of creating test scripts.
- Prepare for longer calls
- Avoid surprises: inform the client about the progress and include roadblocks so the client hears no new information for the first time during the call
- Peer review first and ensure the mapping to the RTM is done prior to the call
- Avoid reiterating the status email in detail as it is already sent through email. Go into the details only if the client asks for anything specific or when the client requests for it
- Cancel or abort the call in case the client and the QA team has no questions or nothing to discuss
- Explain the plan for the next tasks
- In case of blockage that is preventing us from going further, think of alternate tasks and communicate the same to the client.
#5) Client call during script execution and defect logging
(Click on image for enlarged view)
For this phase to be effective, we have to meet the estimated time lines and the quality of the report that communicates it has to be excellent and correct.
Read more => Test execution process
- Like test scripting phase, in this phase too the calls can be long and might deal with complicated issues- So be focused and patient.
- Advance email helps
- Give the overall highlights of that day’s status at the beginning of the call
- Once status discussion is complete, move on to defect status
- Resolve queries
- Explain the next sequence of tasks
Note – Sometimes we may have many scripts fail. And client may not feel good about this. Although it’s not our fault, execute test cases as normal (if possible, more) to keep on track and compensate poor quality with progress.
Read also => How to Write Effective Emails to QA (or any) Team
#6) Client call during UAT / after release / in production
- Inform the client of any known issues and workarounds to help with UAT
- When you are asked about a defect found during UAT, respond them with the root cause/workaround via email when possible or conduct a short call to explain the same
- Make suggestions on the action to be taken on known issues- to deal with them via a change request or RFC (request for change) – or to scope them as a new project, etc.
- Once the product is live- check about the maintenance requirements from the client
- Recommend performance or other non-functional testing to be done, if you think necessary
One final tip is: Ask for feedback. If you have followed a practice, ask the client if it was helpful to make sure that you we are involving the client on deciding what works best.
Perfecting the client-team communication is a hard balance to achieve, but with few simple steps we can get there and make progress.
The above points are time tested and have been practically implemented, so we know that these work.
Please let us know if you have any other tips and tricks up your sleeve.
As always, we would love to hear from you. Please comment or post questions below.