Like businesses with great customer service, the best project managers talk to customers too. Good project management (and managers) revolves around a few core philosophies: effective reviewing, planning and reporting to get the most out of any project, clear judgment and decision making to minimize any gray areas, motivation and goal setting to make sure everyone on the team stays sharp and delivers, and most importantly, communicating on the progress of the project.
But while good project managers can put all of these core philosophies into tangible actions and produce results, they’re still relatively shielded from the day-to-day “customer” grind. Upper management calls for projects that benefit the end user but only the best project managers understand the user impacts or even why users request certain features.
If you believe that your customers define your business, then it makes sense to have your project managers understand and appreciate the customer engagement lifecycle. Here are four ways your project managers can help better customer engagement.
1. Helping set and communicate expectations to customers
Project managers need to know customer expectations well. They know the importance of communication to strong team leadership and have to apply that to their customers. Rather than talking to customers about whether or not they will enjoy a certain feature or initiative, use it to uncover their expectations that have not yet been met.
It’s important to distinguish a customer’s ability to state problems and a customer’s ability to outline symptoms as a result of their expectations. By talking with customer more often project managers improve their ability to prescribe answers and solutions based on expectations rather than just “stated” problems.
At the end of the day, a customer’s experience is shaped by how well your product aligns with their expectations. When you’re able to apply concrete ideas and processes to abstract expectations, customer engagement skyrockets.
2. Work closely with other teams
By being an owner of customer expectations, your value to other teams increases. Compiling a list of customer expectations is wildly different than understanding them. Project managers who can draw these connections tend to work lock step with other teams of an organization.
Fact is, customer expectations can be gathered and interpreted differently by different teams. Just like how talking to customers on a regular basis can foster healthy partnerships in designing around solid customer feedback, interacting with other teams internally on pivotal data points can provide new perspectives on how to interpret customer feedback.
As a project manager, if you can deliver results that not only satisfy internal teams but also customers with unrivaled credibility, then you’ve successfully secured future business for the company.
3. Fight for transparency
Projects, products, and businesses fail when customer engagement dwindles. Survival is not possible when customers feel disconnected, suspicious or under valued. Project managers are strongly encouraged to instill the same strong sense of transparency that they have with their teams to day-to-day processes, even when it does not involve customers.
Trust and transparency is something that trickles down to customers and customers respect businesses that are transparent and honest. That means no unwanted surprises, hidden agendas, lack of information or the obfuscation of data when it comes to their productivity. Having a good ecosystem of transparency also keeps important expectations flowing in both directions.
Ultimately that means projects get completed on time, on point and always provide value to both parties. Project managers who can fight for transparency succeed most in their ability to define accountability as well. Customers will actively engage with you when they understand that they’re accountable for providing feedback and you’re accountable for delivering an even better product or service.
4. Learn to balance customer needs and project control
Not every customer’s feedback can be incorporated and addressed because, as we mentioned earlier, not every customer is a great fit. However, project managers need to effectively exercise and communicate strict degrees of project control even for customers who are great fits and conversation sparks are flying.
By talking to customers, project managers can help prioritize company goals with better optics and steer companies away from projects that have no ROI. While customer feedback is important, not everything is a priority.
Customers can and do get carried away when it comes to expressing their needs and providing their feedback. It’s counterproductive to agree to everything or to even acknowledge everything they say as gospel or command. In fact, customers show far greater notions of engagement when they can simply have a conversation about their need. The occasional “No” will go a lot further than constant the “Yes”. It demonstrates solid project control that adheres to a set road map. It demonstrates confidence in knowledge of a particular industry. And it reminds the customer that the relationship is mutual.
Before you can satisfy the customer, you have to satisfy the project by having the right tools for the job. ProjectManager.com offers an online and collaborative platform to plan, monitor and report on your project in real-time, which gives you the information you need to better serve your customers. Try our project management software with this free 30-day trial by clicking the banner below.