Nationwide Insurance used to run a commerci– “Every Complaint is an Opportunity.” They said they are unique because they will listen to a complaint and try to do something about it. I have a DVR, so I don’t watch many commercials at all, but I let the commercials play on the recorded show I was watching while I retrieved something from my office nearby and I heard this line.
The Unhappy Customer
That concept really struck me. It’s sort of like Lessons Learned from a project standpoint. I’ve always liked to approach my customer relations like this – every comment is important and any negative feedback means there’s something that needs to change to make this customer happy.
It may be that they’re not receiving the proper information, or it’s not timely enough for their liking or needs. Or they feel that decisions are being made without their input or approval. Or they’re not pleased with the performance or availability of a resource on the project. Or maybe they’re just not happy with how the PM is handling tasks. At any rate, they’re not happy and they’re complaining to someone.
Take it Seriously
Those complaints can’t be taken lightly, even if you feel they are unjustified. Each complaint is an opportunity to draw yourself closer to the customer. An opportunity to fix a problem, fill a need, right a wrong, or ease a stress. It may be nothing, but acting quickly and aggressively and letting the customer know that whatever it is that concerns them concerns you too is critical. It’s critical for three key reasons:
- It lets your customer know their concerns are your concerns
- Your customer knows they are being heard and problems will be addressed
- As the PM in charge, you have begun to mend your reputation with the customer which has already been damaged to some degree just because there is a complaint – even if that complaint isn’t with the PM’s performance or even concerning something within the PM’s control
Document, Document, and Document
Be sure to also document all complaints and issues that are brought up by the customer. Treat them just as you would any other issue on the project – put it on the on-going issues list, track it, discuss it during the weekly status calls and follow it till it’s resolved. Your customer will be pleased that their issues and complaints have high visibility and are being addressed promptly. In many of the companies I’ve done work for those weekly formal status reports are visible to everyone on up to the CEO so the customer will understand that their concerns are getting the highest visibility and attention possible.
Your customer is everything…and without them there is no project. Treat their concerns, complaints and issues with the highest priority and attention – even if you feel there is no real issue. Make them aware through some visible tracking method and ongoing discussions that the issue is being addressed. Just knowing they are being heard and addressed will make customer satisfaction rise significantly and will likely lessen the frequency of future complaints. Unsatisfied customers find more things to complain about. Satisfied customers work with you to resolve issues before raising complaints to higher levels in the organization.
I originally authored this article for the PM Tips website. The original article appears here.