The support of sponsors and stakeholders is a critical element in project success. Without strong participation by these groups, the project team may have difficulty getting the necessary resources and cooperation to execute even simple tasks. But with everything that goes into delivering consistent results and meeting the organization’s needs, the focus on long-term satisfaction and engagement across the entire customer base sometimes takes a backseat to more pressing issues coming down from the company’s leadership team.
To help counteract the potential that some customer segments may be inadvertently overlooked, PMs can incorporate a few key strategies to ensure their entire team makes customer service a priority.
Develop a culture of customer service from top to bottom. Not only do PMs need to believe in the value of giving project customers first-class support, they need to back up those principles with action. Make it clear to your team that customer service is a priority in every interaction, whether it’s involving customer groups in the planning phase of a project or following up on their questions in a timely and transparent manner. A truly customer-centric team is built on genuine intentions and consistent actions.
Put the customer front and center when evaluating new project team members. PMs have a perfect opportunity to deepen the group’s commitment to customer service every time a new member is added. Review candidates’ communication strengths and their aptitude for working with a diverse customer base, for example. It’s also helpful to discuss customer service expectations during the interview process to ensure applicants value a strong customer focus as much as you do.
Include customers at every step of the way. Beginning with the earliest stages of planning, your project team should work to make customers an integral part of the process. Even if other stakeholders are more active in developing activity schedules or providing budget estimates, be sure to keep customers in the loop. This can be as simple as sending out regular updates on progress and notifications of planned activities.
Emphasize customer participation as part of your stakeholder engagement efforts. Because the executives are largely responsible for strategic decisions and budget approvals, you might focus most of your attention on this highly influential group. Don’t forget about the importance of a committed customer base in the wider scheme of things. Though customers may not participate directly during every project stage, their long-term satisfaction will improve when they know what’s going on and they’re comfortable their concerns will be handled.
Find new opportunities to ask customers for input. Your project team likely already does a good job of soliciting feedback. Look beyond your existing efforts to see where customer-specific perspectives can help you boost satisfaction and engagement metrics even more. Consider asking customers how the project went from their perspective, or if any portion of the initiative was a surprise to them. You may uncover some interesting clues about gaps in your team’s communication strategy, where planning efforts are too narrowly focused, or where intended outcomes didn’t quite hit the mark.
Use that customer feedback to drive better project results. With candid customer input in hand, you can evaluate your team’s practices to identify areas where customer service can be improved. Do you need to expand the e-mail distribution lists for status e-mails or interim progress reports? Would future projects receive greater support if you held more open house or similar in-person events? Involve your project team in the feedback review and interpret the input as a group. You’ll strengthen the culture of customer service and give individual members an opportunity to add their own perspectives.