5 Keys to Customer Satisfaction - Project Management Best Practices
By Brad Egeland - PM Expert and Guest Blogger
Many things can factor into the success or failure of a project. In fact, a project can be rolled out successfully to a waiting customer end-user community that deems it to fully meet their needs, and yet it still can be considered a failure. Success and failure opinions at the end of a project are murky waters, indeed, but I’ve always found that there are basically three key determiners to project success: on time delivery, on budget delivery, and customer satisfaction. And that last one is a big one, because you can fail on the first two and succeed on the third and end up delivering what many consider to be a successful solution. Likewise you can succeed on the first two and end up failing on the third – sometimes for reasons you may not know or fully understand – and have the project deemed to be a failure.
So, for the purpose of this article, I’d like to examine what I consider to be five key actions to take to help increase your likelihood of satisfying the customer throughout the course of the engagement and therefore also increase the likelihood of delivering a successful project upon deployment.
1. Properly set expectations
Correctly setting customer expectations for the engagement at the outset of the project is critical. A customer whose expectations do not match those of the delivery team may end up being frustrated throughout the engagement thinking you owed them something that you didn’t deliver. That’s why it’s critical that the project manager organizes, prepares for, and leads a formal project kickoff session with the customer at the very beginning of the engagement. Whether this is a one-hour phone call or a two-day onsite face-to-face affair will depend on the visibility, duration, dollar value, and complexity of the project, but it must be done. Review the statement of work, review assumptions, discuss how the project will be run, confirm key deliverable dates and milestones and ask questions to make sure everyone is on the same page. This must be established before moving on to more planning and requirements analysis on the project. The customer must understand the scope of the project and how you plan to deliver on it.
2. Communicate effectively
Efficient and effective communication is a key responsibility of the project manager. The project customer who is getting too little communication can feel as though they are disengaged from the project and are on the outside looking in or that critical information is not being communicated. I’m an advocate of always making sure that the project customer has a revised weekly project schedule and project status report even if there is basically nothing new to report. Skipping this process once makes it easier to skip it twice, and a third time, etc. Soon you have a customer who feels second-rate and if they feel compelled to start making phone calls to senior management in your organization, you now have a dissatisfied customer and your job may be on the line. Over communicate and over deliver, not the other way around.
3. Pay attention to detail
Always pay attention to detail – especially when it involves something that the customer will see. If you are delivering a document to the project customer – for example a deliverable like a design document – make sure it’s been properly proofed by you and your team prior to sending it to the customer for review, even if it’s an early draft. The occurrence of several typos may give the customer the impression that you’re not paying attention to detail and that you’re not concerned with delivering error-free products. That can immediately cause the customer concern and reduce their confidence in your team’s ability to deliver. Peer review everything…twice.
4. Maintain project visibility
Keep the project visible. Invite someone from senior management in your organization to attend one or more project status calls or meetings. Ask the customer to come in to meet with your executive team at some key milestone of the project. Anything you can do to give the customer the impression that they are important to your organization and to your management will make them feel that close attention is being paid to their project. They’ll know that what they are spending on the project is important to your organization and that they are a valued client. It’s not always enough to just tell them that, show it to them as well.
5. Hold their hands
Finally, don’t let the customer become frustrated with processes where they have little to no experience. Customers are notoriously bad at coming up with good requirements. Help them through this process and, of course, plan for it in your project schedule. Likewise, they often lack the knowledge or skills to put together meaningful test cases and scenarios for user acceptance testing (UAT). Of course, you can’t do the testing for them or even prepare all the test cases for them; that would be a conflict of interest. But you can give them samples, help them through the process, and hold their hands through UAT. It’s in everyone’s best interest that UAT be successful and also thorough. So help them. They will appreciate it.
There is no question that customer satisfaction can depend on many things, but by doing the five things I just described on every project you lead, you will definitely help achieve customer confidence and satisfaction as you work toward a successful project deployment.
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 9, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.