Does Your Project Team Take Customer Relationships Seriously?

Customer relationship management (CRM) may sound like a problem for the sales team, but its principles actually affect project offices, too. While the technology platforms and analytical tools typically used in true CRM activities are likely beyond what the project team needs to ensure its customers are satisfied, the basics—understanding what customers desire, maintaining a meaningful dialogue between customers and the team, identifying where existing customer satisfaction efforts are falling short, etc.—are definitely applicable in project management. If your Project Team isn’t already making its customer relationships a priority, consider why there could be consequences down the road.

First, stakeholder support and participation often hinge on how well the project office takes care of its customers. Careful management of the relationships between the team and its customers could very well result in not only happier customers, but in customers who are more committed to the project’s success and more willing to endure work disruptions and other impacts to see the project succeed. Unhappy stakeholders can make progress difficult, but flexible and supportive stakeholders are a powerful ally of the project management team.

In addition, even in organizations where the project office is an internal department, strong competition surrounding project management services may still exist. It’s not uncommon for stakeholder groups to have their own resources in mind for certain project tasks—occasionally that means using an outside vendor but very often there’s someone on the stakeholder’s own team that is keen to spearhead some portion of the activities. Having a solid record of good customer relationships may be instrumental in competing against these alternate providers.

Ensuring customers are satisfied, even when a project encounters a glitch, requires diligence and commitment. If your Project Team hasn’t focused on customer satisfaction initiatives in the past, it’s not too late to turn things around. Begin strengthening your customer relationships by asking these 3 questions.

Are customer relationship improvement efforts part of the standard project plan?

Too often, project teams only turn their focus toward the health of their customer relationships when stakeholders are already upset, or are likely to become upset soon because of impending bad news. That’s much too late in the process to affect customer satisfaction in a meaningful way. Instead, Project Teams should make customer relationship improvement activities standard practice in every project plan. Conducting user surveys throughout the project (rather that just at the end) is a good example. While wrap-up surveys alone are helpful, soliciting feedback during other key project stages may yield far more actionable insight. Another example is the frequency and content of routine stakeholder communications. If customers indicate they feel uninformed, these interactions should be boosted across the board.

Is customer satisfaction considered during every project’s post-mortem analysis?

If user surveys are the only tool included in the wrap-up analysis, the Project Team’s efforts could be falling short. As part of the normal post-mortem conducted on each project, the team should also look back on what types of customer satisfaction activities were undertaken, what the results of those efforts turned out to be, and where additional efforts should be included in future projects.

Do all team members understand their role in supporting good customer service?

Maintaining good customer relations isn’t the task of one or two PMP®s. Instead, every person in the Project Team has the potential to influence customer satisfaction levels. To be sure stakeholder relationship efforts aren’t inadvertently undermined, take the time to work with the entire team to clearly define where key customer service points occur and how each team member can improve the customer experience. That Project Team-wide dedication will be reflected in stakeholders’ satisfaction levels.

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.

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