~ By Brad Egeland
The other day I was at Costco, and they were sampling Oreos. Oreos. Does anyone say "no" to an Oreo. They've been around for 103 years. They're a part of our lives like riding a bicycle or eating apple pie.
But as the lady handed me a cookie to sample – like I hadn't already had 10,000 of these in my lifetime (or the last 5 years) – I said,
These are smaller than they were when we were growing up. She agreed. Nabisco has inched prices higher while also making the product smaller. To increase profit or to retain the same profit margin. We may never know the answer. And we may never know how much smaller they are now because there probably aren't any cookies left from my childhood days – at least I hope there aren't. But everyone would likely agree that they have, indeed, become smaller over the years.
Delivering less for more. It's a rather sad statement. Whether they had to do that to stay in business or did it just to increase profits, I'm not sure – but it's still sad. That wouldn't fly in the professional services world.
Can you imagine raising the prices of your resources' hourly rates for your project customers but delivering less service. What would happen. Right. Your project client would quickly bypass you and move on to your next competitor. And your reputation. Well, that would certainly take a huge hit. Maybe not after just one customer, but certainly after two or three experience this it would.
Are you periodically under delivering on your projects. Are you going through the motions at times. Your client expects 'x' and you sometimes deliver 'x', but sometimes you deliver 'y' instead because it's easier. You're busy right now, and it seems like your customer doesn't notice or really care that much. And maybe they don't right now. But after too much of you delivering 'y' instead of the higher-end 'x', they will begin to notice. Client satisfaction and approval dips. And before you realise it, you actually have a project issue on your hands.
How do you combat this. You may even be doing this without really noticing it…just because you're swamped on so many projects and you're just trying to keep your head above water while continuing to deliver to all of your project sponsors. What can you do to ensure you're keeping your customer delivery standards high enough. To ensure your clients feel like they're getting the service and quality they deserve. I maintain that it's through one or more of these three steps or actions…
In reality, and when everyone is being honest, lessons learned sessions rarely happen on the projects we're managing. Not only should they happen, but I believe that we should be conducting them throughout the project at, say, key milestones or deliverables rather than just at the end. That way we can learn and take advantage of what we gather from our project sponsor and from our project team now – on this project rather than just the next project and beyond.
Survey your client to get a gauge on how they think you and your team are performing. The responses may surprise you, but you'll probably take away something beneficial. And if you do this mid-project and at the end – like conducting lessons learned throughout the project – you can help the current project as well.
Since communication, in my opinion, is the most important responsibility of the project manager, keeping in touch regularly – preferably daily or almost daily – with your project sponsor can help you stay on top of any concerns your customer may have. If there's a customer concern, you'll likely find out very early if you already have this type of open communication line going with the project client.
In my opinion, the best way to stay away from under delivering to your project client is to stay very connected to them and very aware of any potential client concerns. It keeps you accountable and performing at the highest level. The three actions above help keep that connectedness at the forefront of the project.
What about our readers? What tactics do you employ to help ensure you are on top of any client concerns and avoid under delivering on the project? How do you keep from just going through the motions with those project clients who don't seem to really mind at the moment (though they might later on)?