You can look at project success from many angles and probably come up with a dozen different ways to measure it.
However, there are really three main keys to project success:
- on time delivery
- on budget delivery, and
- exceeding customer expectations
Some project managers like to include quality in there as well, and you can, but usually a customer won’t be satisfied with a project that is delivered sub-standard.
So, in my book, customer satisfaction covers quality too.
Is one more important than the other? Well, that depends on why the project may be going over time or over budget.
To me, the biggest predictors of project success are exceeding customer expectations and high satisfaction – mainly because it’s the customer's time and money that are going into the project schedule.
If those slide and they are still happy, it’s usually still considered a success.
Let’s consider that you’re running a project and the customer's satisfaction becomes an issue mid-project.
Let’s not look at why…rather I’d like to just consider some best practices steps that you can start taking now to help improve the situation – even if the project is still experiencing ongoing issues, resource problems or requirements interpretation discussions.
Here are three areas you can work on – today – to help exceed customer expectations while you work on anything else troubling your project and client…
As I always state – communication is Job #1 for any project manager. Nothing soothes a potentially frustrated project client faster than frequent communication and thorough status updates.
Related Post: Plan to communicate, and have a communication plan
In project management, distance does not make the heart grow fonder. It makes it more irritated. When customers aren’t hearing from you frequently, they think the worst and customer satisfaction dips.
Stay in close contact with your project client…even if you think you are over communicating. You aren’t…there is no such thing.
2) Customer engagement
Increase customer engagement in the project by giving them something specific to do.
The project sponsor and other customer team members are likely busy, and overseeing your project may not be their top priority. Sometimes they can become disengaged as they turn their attention to their day jobs.
When customers are busy elsewhere and aren’t seeing or hearing from you consistently, they can lose confidence, so keeping their attention with actual deliverables will allow them to actively participarte and stay involved.
During the kickoff meeting, look for small tasks to assign to them. You can give each team member something small to prepare or report on in the weekly status meeting. It's crucial to keep them coming to the meetings and feeling connected, even when their primary attention may be elsewhere.
Related Post: The Essential Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda
3) Status reporting
Improve your status reporting. One great way to do this is to add a nice, informational dashboard if you don’t already have one. People love the visual aspect of reporting - add the usual red, green and yellow indicators to show the status of any task at a glance. Include budget status, issues, risks, change order information.
The dashboard can double as the executive management status report. Keep the detail behind it, and leadership will love the dashboard…trust me.
Nothing guarantees high customer satisfaction. Some customers are easy to please and some you can never make happy.
As an independent consultant, I’ve seen the full spectrum and sometimes fail to run the other way before it’s too late. But 99% of the time I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great project clients who want the project to succeed and stick with me 100% and stay engaged throughout.
I can’t say I’ve always made them happy, but I try to stick to best practices for the most consistent delivery possible and look for ways to give them some value added service to exceed expectations and hopefully increase the possibility that they will choose my services again.
How about our readers – what elements have you employed to exceed customer expectations on the projects you’ve managed where that key project success determiner has begun to wane?
Please share your experiences for discussion.