The Customer Is (Not) Always Right

The old adage of customers knowing what’s best is usually true, but don’t let that sentiment paint you into a corner. Your Project Team team members should feel empowered to push back if an end user’s requests or expectations are out of line. Not sure when to say “no?” Ask yourself the following questions to stay on the right path.

Will this impact my budget? If the request will entail additional expenditures, think carefully before you respond with a yes or no. Remember: if you go over budget, you will be the one answering for it, not your end user. Also, resist the urge to “borrow” money from other line items to satisfy the request—contingencies aren’t there to address customer needs that weren’t properly accounted for during the planning phase.


Will this impact my timeline? Delaying your project could lead to significant negative repercussions down the line. Potential problems include cost overruns to get back on track, a reduced ability to properly address glitches that occur when you’re already behind schedule, quality control issues from hastily cutting corners, and missing advantageous market conditions when completion is delayed.


Will this impact other users? It’s possible that a user could ask for something that reduces a project’s benefits to others. End users generally don’t have enough information about the details of your project to anticipate these consequences themselves, so it’s important that you carefully evaluate how any mid-project changes might impact the overall objectives.


Does this go against stakeholder wishes? Occasionally, end users make requests that contradict your stakeholders’ intentions. Example: the implementation of new operating procedures could be unsuccessful if a user’s request subverts the new program. Uncomfortable fighting this battle yourself? Consider suggesting the user contact the stakeholder directly if appropriate—you may find they’re more receptive than you thought.

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