Project Customers Are Not Created Equal

Project teams must have strong customer service skills no matter which internal or external groups they’re serving. That doesn’t mean, though, that just one type of customer experience can or should be provided across every project that the team executes or every stakeholder group they support.

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Most project customers fall into one of three categories, each with its own set of concerns, requirements, and expectations. If your Project Team is interested in boosting its customer satisfaction levels and offering the very best service, see if your team is tailoring its support to these different customer types.

Executives
The organization’s leadership team will no doubt have very specific expectations in areas where other customers may have none. A top concern is likely to be focused on the ready availability of information—budgets, progress updates, etc. This is probably the kind of data most other customers won’t want, and in some cases may be too confidential to share outside the executive group.

Customer service activities involving executives should prioritize strong communication flows and short response times to inquiries. The leadership team often expects near-immediate answers when they have a question, so developing a workflow that fast-tracks all communications to and from this group is critical.

Sponsors
There may be times when a sponsor (or a sponsor group) is separate and distinct from the leadership team. In some organizations, influential department heads and senior-level advisors might occasionally provide resources for or even completely fund projects. The customer service expectations of this group is often slightly different from those of the executive team. Sponsors, though they may be keenly interested in budget and timeline discussions, will also probably want to evaluate end user issues, often in a broad sense rather than at the level of day-to-day details.

Providing good customer service to the sponsor group entails bringing together how each of the project’s achievables will impact the users within that sponsor’s area of influence. A focus on productivity benchmarking data and where the project will impact those numbers will also go a long way toward keeping the sponsor group engaged.

In addition, project teams should be prepared to draw the line on which data they’re able to share with non-executive sponsors, as the organization’s guidelines may prevent the release of strategic or other sensitive information to anyone outside the leadership team. Knowing these parameters up front will help set everyone’s customer service expectations appropriately.

End users
Discussions about scope and funding are usually welcome topics among end users, though these aspects of the project are often not at the top of the list of issues for end users. For the most part, this is a group that’s far more interested in the kind of support that helps them remain efficient and productive as the various project phases come and go. It’s important to keep them informed about overall progress, but remember that work disruptions are likely to be among their biggest concerns.

The Project Team should begin focus its end user customer service efforts by offering assistance in planning for and minimizing any impacts the project is likely to bring. One strategy to ensure end users receive the support they need is to proactively identify potential issues that could cause disruption and work with affected users to devise and implement workable solutions. It’s also helpful if the project team has pre-project benchmarking data and corollary post-project estimates available for those workflows scheduled to be impacted. The Project Team can then extend its customer service offering by giving end users the information they need to address any difficulties they may encounter when trying to achieve their anticipated results.

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