And by success, I mean real success. Successful projects are usually based on one or all of three factors depending on who is doing the judging. These are on time delivery, on budget delivery and customer satisfaction. Which one is the biggest to you and your organization? That may depend on who is doing the judging.
I can guarantee you that the CFO is most concerned about the financial bottom line. The CEO is probably concerned about all three... but he's probably most concerned with the customer satisfaction level as that's where customer referrals, testimonials and returning engagements come from. And the rest of the stakeholders are likely somewhere in between.
I have five steps to consider on the road to the highest customer approval rating possible... as you read please think about your own list and feel free to share...
Hands on customer engagement.
Yes, you may not think so or want to do it, but your customer wants and needs your hand holding on many project engagements. The more they know that the project is going well, that their money is being spent wisely and timely, and that forward progress is always being made, the better. And it's all about their customer satisfaction. Hands on means lots of communication – which is Job One for the project manager, business analyst and team. Don't skip status reports, don't cancel meetings, don't slide deliverables whenever possible. Even if they aren't always examining every detail and listening to every word, hearing you and seeing your reports and emails tells them a lot and sometimes enough about what's going on and how “on it” you are. That gives them a warm, confident feeling. The less they hear from you the less they think you are doing. Don't give them the opportunity to wonder and imagine that things aren't going well. Show them that they are going well.
Key aspects of the team-customer communication process.
Be careful when communicating with the client. I believe in 100% transparency for both the good and the bad information on the project. But the bad must be analyzed before conveyed. Do you like it when someone comes to you with only bad information or a major issue or do you prefer they come to you with bad information and one or more proposed courses of action. Now if it's your 4 year old son which it often is for me, his choice of mitigation may not be the best one to act upon, but when your project team comes to you or you go to the project customer, it is very conceivable – and expected – that you've dutifully thought it out and have 2-3 actions plans to discuss and choose from. Trust me, your customer confidence and overall reaction to the bad news will be much much higher if you present potential and workable solutions with the bad news.
Project meeting planning and management.
Well planned out project meetings can end with higher productivity in the meetings also resulting in higher customer confidence and approval ratings. The well planned out meeting isn't that hard to pull off. Stick to what I like to call my key ingredients to the perfect project meeting and your customer and team – and all stakeholders – confidence, satisfaction and participation levels will be the highest possible...
- Put out a clear agenda in advance every time. Always provide and agenda and general status in advance to all expected attendees. This way everyone will know what is expected in advance and will come prepared to discuss – no excuses.
- Focus on a meaningful purpose. Focus on what is necessary and what you want to accomplish. Being too broad or too general will result in less productivity and more followup meetings.
- Don’t hold meetings just to hold meetings. Be specific and make your meetings important. But don't cancel easily either – cancelling regular revolving meetings can cause individual attendees to lessen the importance of your meetings in their own heads and it will become easier and easier to skip your meetings. Keep the meetings even if they are shorter in length than planned – you never know when a critical piece of info may fall through the cracks if you cancel.
- Start on time and end on time. Be punctual and don't get in the habit of bringing latecomers and no-shows up to date. That's their job – and if you do so they will always come late or skip.
- Followup with notes. The goal of any meeting is communication. Follow up with notes afterwards and ask for feedback within 24 hours. You want everyone on the same page as you move forward.
Resolving issues and errors in delivery.
Taking care of issue and error resolution in a timely fashion will always help with customer satisfaction. Too many times – especially with tech projects – we hand the end solution off with a few outstanding issues and plan to regroup later or leave for the customer to deal with.
Of course we do this only with the customer's blessing, but wouldn't it be better if we could hand off quality, error free solutions rather than something that is 95% of the way there? Strive for perfection always and expect the best – as the customer should expect. Put yourself in their shows... if you're buying a new car are you happy driving it off the lot with a couple of scratches that you agree to bring back in the next month to have fixed? Not likely – you'll do it but it doesn't mean you'll ever feel good about shopping there again for a new car. It's a lot of money to spend on something that isn't perfect.
Handling final review and sign off of the project with the customer.
A quality end project handoff is probably one of the single biggest things you can do to ensure high customer confidence and approval ratings. How do you do that? Plan for and schedule and actually conduct a lessons learned session post implementation. That chance to regroup and review the project tells the customer you care and will lead to a much higher likelihood of return business no matter how the project went. You also do it by planning with support and your own team to support client needs post implementation for a specific period of time... one month, three months, whatever. It says I care and I'm responsible for the work I'm handing off.
Summary / call for input
These are just five steps out of many to help your customer gain and keep confidence in how the project is going and therefore remain more confident throughout that the end result is going to be successful.
Readers – what is your take? Do you agree with this list? What would you change about it? Please share and discuss.