~ By Brad Egeland
Customer satisfaction. It is the basis for what we do as project managers. If a customer isn't happy with the engagement, there isn't any amount of profit we can make or timeline we can beat that will make the project a full success. Customer satisfaction is critical. In my opinion, it is more important than any other project success determiner. I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss the topic of customer satisfaction. As a project manager or IT consultant, customer satisfaction is a make or break concept. It is the basis of your livelihood. If you're independent, like me, it is the difference between a referenceable customer and a dissatisfied customer. If you're working for an organisation and dealing with internal customers and/or external customers, then customer satisfaction, over time, may mean the difference between keeping your job and updating your resume unexpectedly.
As project managers, full responsibility for the project's success rests on our shoulders, even when things beyond our control affect that success. Often times we're the highest priced resource on the project, so many times the customer sees us as the hardest expense to justify. Here are some important ways to help ensure the success of the projects we manage on a daily basis:
Every PM on every project should be responsible for leading weekly customer calls and documenting discussions, action items, issues, and so on. They should resend this to the relevant project team members on both sides within 24 hours of the weekly call. I find that customers are happy with this approach, because they know everything was captured accurately when they review the notes and issues.
In advance of the weekly status call, preferably at least 24 hours in advance, produce and deliver a detailed status report to the customer and project teams on both sides. The status report should be the basis for the weekly status call and should be reviewed and updated on each call.
While the weekly status report is being revised and delivered to the project team and the customer, the project plan must also be revisited, revised and delivered - preferably in both .mpp and .pdf formats, so users without MS Project can view the plan. A good project manager reviews and revises the plan almost daily, but an 'official' revised plan should be delivered to the customer with the status report, and it should be reviewed as part of the weekly status meeting.
At the kickoff of a project, you should gather the project teams on both sides - assuming a customer-facing engagement - and brainstorm the risks. Document these using a project register of your choosing, usually a simple Excel spreadsheet. Identify the likelihood of the risk, as well as the potential impact to the project (budget, timeline, success, etc.) if the risk were realised. Also, identify any risk mitigation actions that can or will be taken to avoid the potential risk.
Ideally, this risk register will become part of your weekly status report going forward and will be something that the teams revisit weekly on the status call. At an absolute minimum, the project manager must review the register (and update it) regularly, bringing items to the attention of the teams when any risk possibilities arise.
In part 2 of this two-part series, I will look at three more ways - bringing the total to seven - that we can be the best possible leaders on each of the projects we manage.