Since a project manager is a member of the production team, the role of the PM is often too easily associated exclusively with the production part of the service, or “what we deliver”. However, a project manager is equally important in the “how we deliver” part of the operation, in building a positive experience for the customer who works with us.
Does good product equal good customer experience?
We all know that we can deliver the best product in the world to our client, but if the client did not feel good working with us, if we failed to establish a relationship with them, they will likely not contact us again.
Being professional and punctual, always delivering what is promised, particularly in terms of quality and deadlines, nurturing partnership relations and open communication with the customer – these are all well-known and frequently described characteristics of a good project manager. They go without saying, and together they create a positive image of a project manager and the company s/he works for in the eyes of the customer on each individual project. But the role of the project manager in customer experience does not start with the project handoff and end with the delivery.
When starting to work with us, a customer embarks on a journey where they go through a series of our processes, which shapes their experience of how it is to work with us. Due to the nature of their position, the project manager is often the customer’s guide in this process with the role and responsibility to make the journey as smooth as possible. We often try to improve the customer experience with technology, by automating some of the tasks, such as quoting or feedback collection, by providing the customer with an insight into our processes or by making the processes more transparent. However, since the project manager is usually the one who remains in continuous contact with the client, the bulk of responsibility still lies with them.
Walking in the client’s shoes
Project manager’s linguistic, technical and organizational skills are a prerequisite for good project management, but when it comes to building an excellent customer experience, another set of skills needs to come to the fore. Just like their projects, clients come in all shapes and sizes and the PM needs to be able to recognize a client and identify and apply the right approach.
The project manager’s direct contact with the client allows insight into the client’s knowledge of our industry, their expectations and the purpose of the project and the PM’s role is to identify that information and adapt the communication and the organization of the project to make sure the project runs as smoothly for the client as possible. A mature customer might be interested in knowing all the tools that will be used during the project and all the details of the process, but a less engaged one might be interested only in the time of the project finalization and the quality of deliverables.
Our clients are manufacturers of medical devices, providers of tourist services or software developers. They all want to focus on what they do, and that is why they rely on you to be their guiding hand, their executor and advisor.
And this is where all the variety of knowledge and skills of a good PM comes into play, especially the diplomatic and organizational abilities. A good PM will use their knowledge and experience to assess what lies ahead at the initial stages of the project – identify the information that they have and that they don’t have, the risks and issues that may emerge during the project and to decide on the best way to proceed. They will ask the client for additional information, documents or anything else if they need to, but make sure to keep their communication balanced and organized, not spamming the client with too much unsolicited emails, questions scattered in dozens of emails or an avalanche of unnecessary information. The precision, timeliness and appropriateness of a project manager’s communication shows respect for the customer and makes them feel good about working with us. It shows that we are their partner who keeps their interest in mind and makes sure that they do not waste their time.
Building the Connection with smooth communication
We set up our processes and procedures according to the industries’ best practices. The processes are meaningful and logical to us, they follow our workflows, and they have often been set up from our own perspective.
But if they do not have the client in mind, they can frustrate the customer and make us difficult to work with. In such situations, the project manager can intervene and act as the customer’s advocate, facilitating the journey through different stops in our company, from onboarding to invoicing, sometimes even breaking down the invisible walls between departments to minimize the customer’s efforts. When a customer has a problem with invoicing, for example, the project manager can be the one to facilitate the communication between the customer and the accounting department and help bridge the gap between the two different sets of processes and procedures, the customer’s and our own.
Customer feedback is one of the most powerful tools in an effort to improve customer experience. It is often quite difficult to elicit feedback and businesses spend resources devising surveys and questionnaires to collect the client’s opinions and feelings about their cooperation.
A project manager is in a privileged position by communicating with the client almost on a daily basis, and through establishing a relationship with the client, s/he can get a first-hand insight into the client’s thoughts and opinions. Not only does such a direct and live feedback make it possible for the project manager to adapt to the client’s expectations from the project in real time, but it can also be a valuable source of information for general process improvement and it can help the company bring customer experience to a whole new level.