Methods to Managing Customer Expectations

Kenneth has 14 years of healthcare experience in government and private industry. Over eight years of experience managing healthcare IT projects, operations, contracts, and personnel. His work experience includes project management, contracts and procurements, data analysis, claims adjudication, business writing, and business process modeling. Kenneth was certified in 2006 as a Project Management Professional.

Every project has a customer; it may not be an external customer and there may not be a formal contract, but somebody should be benefiting from the work of the project and they would be the customer. The project manager should be working to manage the expectations of the customer throughout the project lifecycle. There are many different ways to manage these expectations, and it is important to determine which method (or combination of methods) will work best with your customers and stakeholders.

There is a wonderful scene in Star Trek: The Next Generation where the chief engineer Geordi LaForge meets the original Enterprise engineer, Montgomery Scott. They soon find out that their methods of managing customer expectations are vastly different. Their customer is, of course, the Captain of the Enterprise.

Scotty tells LaForge to pad out his estimations by a factor of four so that when the Captain needs something done quicker, he can do it and gain a reputation of a “miracle worker”. LaForge tells Scotty that his Captain needs to trust him and believe that his estimates are true. That way, when LaForge tells the Captain that fixing the warp core will take eight hours, he will not expect it done in two--but instead trust that LaForge is doing everything he can and know that it will be fixed in exactly eight hours.

How you manage your customer’s …

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"Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining."

- Jeff Raskin

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