Five ways you can improve the overall project experience for your customer. Start by looking at the project from their perspective. Your managing a project but it doesn’t seem like your customer is that excited about the process. You can’t put your hand on it, but they just don’t seem to be extremely satisfied with how things are going. That doesn’t mean the project is going poorly. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong or that your team is underperforming.
Some customers are harder to please than others. Some seem excited with everything thing you do - others not so much. Either way, you have a “customer issue” and you need to do something about it. Maybe not a direct hit, but you need to alter something or inject a new process or behavior in order to change whatever is making the customer experience less than ideal for the project customer.
Five ways to spice up the life of your customer - from a project sense - while you still have the chance to do so.
1. Dashboard status reporting.
Executives love dashboards. Make it a good dashboard with lots of detail and you can make it serve as the status report for all stakeholders. You’ll still need the detail portion of the status report – the regular bullet items that get updated before, during and after each status meeting. But a good dashboard with red/green/yellow indicators, bars or pies, and budget information is going to solve your need to potentially create multiple levels of status reports for every project. And the presentation to the customer will be pleasing and informative.
2. Conduct lessons learned sessions multiple times during the project.
Lessons learned sessions are conducted at the end of the project with the customer to discuss what was good and what was not so good about the project. The idea is to learn from these sessions and improve upon your project delivery on the next project.
By engaging your project customer periodically throughout the current project - say, at every key deliverable, phase or milestone - you can improve upon you and your project team’s performance and delivery on the current project. Your proactiveness is a great way to improve the experience for your project customer and keep customer satisfaction high.
3. Bring your CEO to your next project status meeting.
Nothing says “you are important” to your project customer like getting your CEO to pay them a visit or sit in on a project status meeting or two. And it doesn’t have to be the CEO if you’re in a large organization… it can be another C-level exec or a VP. But it does need to be someone at a pretty high level within your organization. It tells your customer that this project is critical to us and we want to ensure that we are performing to your expectations.
4. Assign a free resource to walk them through UAT.
Project clients are notoriously bad at preparing - and usually at executing - user acceptance testing (UAT) on technical projects. While we can’t do the testing for them - that would be a conflict of interest and serve no good purpose - we can assist them. We can assist them with preparing test scenarios and use cases and we can walk them through the UAT experience. Again, we should not write the scenarios and use cases for them, but we can show them how to do it correctly. And by assigning a free resource to do that with them we are not only helping them, we are not breaking their budget to do so.
5. Plan well for project deployment.
How you and your team handle the end game of the project can make or break the customer experience. Some project managers think you can just phone it in at the end of the project that has gone relatively smoothly. Not so. Much like with your mother-in-law, who just got a new Macbook and you spent 30 minutes helping her get started and then said, “Gotta go!” you’ll win many, many more points if you hold their hand through deployment and then some. Believe me, those project customers with a technical solution that was just handed to them feel a lot better when they know you’re still around to call after the final project task in the schedule shows 100 percent complete.
Plan for a 30 to 60 day transition to support for the project solution on technical projects and promise to keep you and your team available to the customer if needs arise. If you’ve hammered out a pretty good relationship with the customer during the engagement prior to close out, then this act of closeout contact and support will go in ensuring customer satisfaction and possibly other add-on work for your organization. Win-win.
It’s the little things that matter. The extra distance you go in taking the time and effort to please that project customer will not go unnoticed by them. Take your technical insight down a notch and look at it from their perspective. Think about what might cause you anxiety if you were sitting in their seat. And pinpoint those things. Every project is different and can present you with new and different hacks for a better customer experience if you just look at the project through the eyes of the customer.