Helping clients and firms get to Yes.

One of the hardest answers in the client business.

When we launched Basecamp 3 a few months back, we launched a flavor called “Basecamp With Clients.” This version of Basecamp 3 has one big thing that’s different from the standard version of Basecamp 3 — it has something called “The Clientside”.

The Clientside is an exclusive feature in Basecamp 3 built to specifically separate the back of the house (unfinished work in progress that’s only visible to your team) from the front of the house (finished work, client presentations, and communications that the client can see and participate in).

The Clientside allows firms to be 100% sure the client can’t see anything they shouldn’t see, or hear anything they shouldn’t hear. It eliminates all the fear and anxiety that’s often tied up in “Oh shit, that wasn’t for them” moments. I’ll be writing more about the backstory, research, and ideas behind the Clientside in a future post.

For now, I want to share a big improvement we just launched: Approvals.

A ton of client services firms (design firms, consultants, development shops, accountants, lawyers, etc) use Basecamp to run their projects, present work to their clients, and keep their client’s feedback on the record.

Having talked to hundreds — maybe thousands — of client services firms over the years, and having been in the client business for many years, one thing is clear: Getting to “yes” can be difficult. Not a sorta yes, but a real yes. And firms need definitive yesses in order to make sure something was approved. Since future work is based on the approval of earlier work, clear approvals are fundamental to a healthy client relationship.

Yes is the only thing that means yes.

Sometimes people show work to a client using Basecamp and they get a “Looks great!” or a “Wow, nice!” or a “Sweet! Love it”. Sound great, doesn’t it? Problem is it’s not a yes or a no, it’s still a maybe. It’s unclear if “wow, nice” means “yes we approve” or just “wow, nice… looking forward to seeing more.” When money and relationships are at stake, clarity around yes or no is essential. The last thing you want to do is assume someone approved something, then build other work on top of that approval, and then find out that the foundational approval wasn’t actually an approval, it was just a reaction. “That’s great” does not equal yes.

So, we set off to help firms and client alike bring clarity to their working relationships.

Now in Basecamp 3 you’ll see a new button on the Clientside called “Get their approval on the record”. When it’s time to get a definitive yes or no, this is the button to click.

The button is on the right.

Next you’ll see a screen like this that asks you which person on the client side needs to approve this work, what you want to ask them to approve (you can attach files, images, etc), when you need the approval by (whenever, or an exact date), and anyone on your team you want to cc.

The who, the what, and then when.

The request for approval is then emailed to the client and marked waiting on your end.

Waiting for approval.

The client then gets an email that looks like this:

No log-in required — they just click the button to go through the simple approval process.

When the client clicks the button they’ll see a web page — no login required — which shows the work you want them to see along with any additional description you’ve added. Below that, they’ll see two simple buttons: “Yes, I approve” and “No, not yet”.

“Do we have your approval?”

The client can click either Yes or No. They’ll then have a spot to leave additional feedback or commentary to support their choice or ask a follow up question. Whatever they say will be record back in Basecamp:

Beth on the client side said yes, and added something about how delicious those pancakes actually look.

The team on the firm side will also get a notification and a receipt confirming the approval (or non-approval) which they can then comment on and carry on the discussion. Every single step of the way is stored on the record so there’s never any confusion about who said what when. It’s clear for both sides to see, which is key for accountability and part of the fundamental value of Basecamp.

Getting to a definitive yes or no is one of the hardest things in the client business. You don’t want to pester, you don’t want to hassle, you don’t want to have to have an awkward conversation about what “Looks great!” means — especially when thousands of dollars and important deadlines are on the line.

But when you use a system like Basecamp to help you get a clear yes (or no), you eliminate the moments for miscommunication that can unfortunately happen when people use different language to mean different things. Assumptions around approval can really hurt a project. We’re aiming to help you replace assumptions with definitive answers and clarity.

We hope you find this useful!

And it’s just the start of where we’ll be taking Basecamp With Clients in 2016. Lots of very cool stuff coming your way.