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PM Essence

Customer Satisfaction and Project Management, a tight rope walk

- Rajesh Dangi,PMP

A little tight rope walk I must say, arguably two most important aspects of project management are client satisfaction and project success (the triple constraints, remember!).

If client satisfaction is not achieved along with successful project closure, it will be quite a struggle to obtain quality referrals, testimonials, and additional work from the customer. The objectives of the customer satisfaction assessment should first be baselined via some questions. Project manager must ask questions, focused on the assessment of the critical satisfaction dimensions of customer requirements who may have some distinctive preferences and expectations. Some of those questions are:


1. Which are the satisfaction parameters and what are their impact on customer behavior? Is this documented and agreed internally and duly scoped?


2. Which is the most important factor?


3. How many customers will be satisfied or dissatisfied? What will be the mechanism deployed to assess the same?


4. What will be the satisfaction level generated from the delivered service or product?


5. What is the average global satisfaction level according to customers preference and expectations and


6. Are there any industry benchmarks if any


7. What are the weak and the strong points of the customer when it comes to this project? Criticality and punctuality of deliverables, information exchange and communication protocols, if any?


8. Which are the satisfaction dimensions that should be measured and improved and what is the plan for improvement ?


Now that we are on the same page, we can further elaborate on the focus areas that have a major bearing on the customer satisfaction as follows: The detailed analysis for each area would be a separate topic of discussion, but a conservative estimate to detail out three questions for each block would suffice and provide a good understanding to the stakeholders on the efforts and intention.

A quick look at the questions that comes to our mind when we wear the 'Customer' cap is always helpful. Does the Project Charter capture the essence of the entire project and the value it would deliver to the customer? Is the scope statement understood by everyone working on the project?
Another aspects to look, are my famous three “C'”; Capability of the team working on the project- Are resources allocated to their full Capacity? Does this provide enough Coverage to all the required project processes? 

Interestingly enough, there is another dimension- How are we communicating with Customer SPOCs / stakeholders, is it too formal? are there any other communication channels than can be used effectively etc. The essence of this People Connect is determined by the degree of collaboration required to make our customers satisfied.


As a matter of fact as we peel off each parameter to setup KPI, we can discover the real value customer perceives and project team when involved in this exercise also starts getting the big picture of the project and 'value' delivered to the customer. are we responsive to our customers information.


Product / Service

After all these efforts we set to deliver the scope which could be a product or service required and requested by the customer. S/He would be interested in all the value additions, features and functionalities balanced with right mix of Cost, Time and Quality yet remains skeptic till we project the right image / perception s/he might carry about us through our processes, communication artifacts, informal interactions and special offerings, that in turn will allow the customer to get the very good pulse of our practice and transparency.


As we proceed towards our 'deliverables', we must use our customer as a mirror to relook at the value we deliver against the scope statement and make it a more customer centric approach. We need to also make sure all the processes are tuned to provide quick and efficient response to make the project deliverables focused and valued by our customers consistently.


Experience & Image:

Our image in the eyes of our customer will decide how he feels about our brand, our credibility to remain his future partner of choice. His/Her ease of working with us, the management overhead in sorting out issues, waiting time for seeking information and updates and how quick we are addressing the changes makes a lot of difference. One interesting fact of judging ourselves is to identify how much time and energy our customer is spending with us to do business with us.


For a successful PM, once s/he gathered inputs from project sponsor, customer key representatives and internal project resources s/he can devise a method to put a weightage to each area and build a KPI template, this template would help steer the project in more customer centric direction both for the for project team and the project stakeholders.

In summary, the orientation and the shift of focus from internal to customer centric approach in design, development and delivery can certainly make a significant difference. The PMI model mentioned here is very robust and offers systematic project management. If coupled with right focus and orientation towards the customers (both internal and external) this can certainly provide the winning edge to the PM and his/her organization for and everlasting business with the customers in today's dynamic and fast moving world.


Needless to say, there is always a tight rope exercise that challenges the Project Managers, to test their performance, perfection and persistence.