Project teams often focus their full attention on driving each initiative to a successful completion, but there’s another aspect of project management that can’t be overlooked: the customer experience.
Your customers should have a seat at the table as your group goes moves each project from concept through completion—planning activities, scheduling work disruptions, allocating funds, and measuring performance. Customers don’t necessarily need to have veto (or even voting) power over any of those components, but your team may not achieve the best results if they don’t provide good service and develop strong working partnerships with their customer base.
If you want to evaluate and improve your project customer experience, the following questions can help you identify areas where you may need to rethink your approach and find opportunities to do things better.
Who’s your customer?
Most projects have multiple customer segments. Executives and project sponsors are one core group and end users are another. If the project will deliver benefits to internal departments or work units, then they’re likely to be a customer group as well. By taking the time to identify which stakeholders are counting on you to keep the project moving forward and to deliver the outcomes they want, you’ll have a better idea of the kind of service they need and the support they expect from you.
What do you want your customer experience to look like?
The project customer experience has some common themes from one organization to the next, but different cultures will drive different expectations. An architectural design firm may have strong visual elements in their customer communications. Technology companies often incorporate emerging platforms and tools to help customers stay in tune with the project’s progress. Consider your company’s culture and develop an experience that aligns with your environment.
Who owns the customer experience in your project team?
There isn’t one right answer to this question, but there does need to be an answer. If no one is accountable for delivering a good customer experience—for ensuring their questions are heard and their concerns are addressed—then even good project outcomes could fall short of expectations. With one individual or a small group of people accountable for your customer experience, you’ll be able to provide more consistent support throughout each project’s lifecycle.
Do your customers have assigned project team contacts?
A communication free-for-all could result in missed messages, dropped questions, and gaps in the distribution of updates or participation in key conversations. Consider assigning one or two primary contacts within your team to receive messages and rout them internally. This provides customers with a more consistent experience and also helps your team maintain better control over your entire communication strategy.
Are your customers helping you do better?
Leverage opportunities to make customers part of your team’s success. Explore ways to gather more feedback from customers. Take full advantage of any post-project surveys or interviews to get customers’ opinions on your performance. If your metrics show stunning success but your customers see it as a bit of a miss, then you should use their perspective to strengthen your customer experience next time.
Is there anything you can do right now to improve your customer experience?
Don’t get bogged down trying to roll out a fully developed experience all at once. Would delivering more frequent updates increase customer engagement? Will expanding an e-mail distribution list result in fewer questions from customers and give them a more proactive view of your project? Even small enhancements can result in immediate improvement in your customer experience, so look for some quick wins that you can build on later.