Best Practices Improve Customer Experiences

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Categories: Best Practices

In order to survive, project-driven organizations must compete on many levels. Delivering on time, to cost and with quality is always important -- but so is the interaction and customer experience they provide during the project.

Project-driven organizations must consider customer satisfaction as a critical success factor. Organizations that deliver projects that disregard customer needs create negative experiences and ultimately cause huge problems for the organization.

Typically, project teams that fail to capture what the customer actually needs or wants end up getting the product or service wrong. This can happen because:  

  1. A project manager blindly follows process and doesn't consider human compassion or understanding. Customer engagement seems like a formality or box-ticking exercise to him or her.
  2. Teams are rewarded on task completion and resolved issues -- not on the number of satisfied customers.
  3. Projects exist within organizations that don't create opportunities for customers to engage or provide feedback. Therefore, there's no information to improve processes. 
  4. There is lack of support and resources to actively engage and respond to customers. This results in poor employee morale and commitment. 
  5. Collaboration between teams and departments favoring the customer don't exist. Hence there is no sharing of insights and improvements.
  6. The overall culture and attitude within the organization is not customer centric, so there will be gaps in expectation and delivery.
I believe project managers and organizations should build in a best-practice approach to fulfil customer expectations.

In my experience, organizations with project management practices that deliver positive experiences are customer-focused and have proactive, sound processes in place. They also have dedicated, responsive teams who are flexible and able to satisfy customer needs.

I believe the following practices can help deliver a positive customer experience:

  • Prevent confrontation and problems by balancing your company's customer service expectations with your customers' needs.
  • Focus efforts on fulfilling requirements -- but remember to show compassion in the process.
  • Bridge gaps between customer requirements and what can actually be delivered through structured communications mechanisms.
  • Measure customer satisfaction and gather feedback to continuously improve processes.
  • Make "satisfied customers" a measure for success in a project -- in addition to quality, time and budget.
  • Report, communicate and ensure project documents are updated and reflect the truth of the project.
  • Have processes that inform and include the customers when making changes.
  • Capture the "voice of the customer." Make these a part of the organization's project management training.
  • Develop and use customer engagement models throughout the project life cycle.  This could be in the form of benchmarks and metrics that the customer scores and provides feedback on, for example. Or, contracts could have mutually agreed upon customer satisfaction orientated rewards and penalties.  
How do you create customer experiences when delivering your projects? What tools and best practices do you use to engage customers?

See more posts from Saira Karim.
See Taralyn R. Frasqueri-Molina's post on The Benefits of a Change Control Board.

Posted by Saira Karim on: February 08, 2012 11:01 AM | Permalink

Comments (4)

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I agree, the customer's satisfaction “parameter” is not apparent in some of the projects main goals.

However, satisfaction of outside customers should be balanced with the the organizational inside customers, because this matters to “its employees” as well as vendors and suppliers throughout the project phases.

It is not difficult to satisfy all outside customers, but balance is really challenging task.

Saira Karim
I agree with you, balance is required and that is can be a challenge. It is doable though, if the project manager and organisation have a provocative culture supported by a good communication set up.

So funny that I saw this today when I just finished writing an article for a client about this same issue within the Usability arena. It's amazing how the customer is expected to just be grateful for what was produced instead of being stewarded through the process like any other team member.

Communication plays a HUGE role in this perception. I am a firm believer in that and I practice that with all clients.

Good article!

John Rowley
Whilst much of this is self-evidently true, the difficulty lies in defining customer satisfaction.

Customers (internal and external to the organisation) can expect the world, but their expectations need to be managed and those expectations must ultimately be in line with the project parameters.

Many sponsors may be frustrated by the time-input up front necessary to achieve this.

So this isn't just an issue of project manager failings, but also of poor sponsorship.

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