Customer Satisfaction is a Myth!

By J. LeRoy Ward,  PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, CSPO   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL

The other day I was scrolling through my LinkedIn feed and saw that someone had posted a picture of one of those business/inspirational quotes, attributed to no one in particular, in an attempt to gain a lot of likes or some agreeable comments. It read:

“A SATISFIED CUSTOMER IS THE BEST BUSINESS STRATEGY OF ALL”

I thought about that for a second and thought, “Nope, that’s a terrible strategy”—one destined to leave a company eating the dust of its competitors as those competitors steal their customers because those customers expect more.

It’s not a worthy strategy for project managers, either. We work mightily each day to deliver the “goods” to our clients through the projects and programs designed to move our companies and organizations forward. Just as companies should never try to satisfy its customers, we should never strive to satisfy our clients. Why?

Well, let’s say you just finished having dinner at a very nice restaurant. You usually leave a 20% tip, but tonight you were so impressed, you’re leaving a 30% tip.

What was it about the overall experience, and the server in particular, that compels you to do something you rarely do? Perhaps the server:

  • Was polite, friendly and greeted you warmly, maybe even by name if you had dined there before.
  • Anticipated your needs to the extent you rarely had to ask for anything. By the time you were turning around to get his or her attention, they were there attending to your needs.
  • Was knowledgeable about the menu. Any question you had about the fusion-this or the port wine-reduction-that, your server provided detailed information about the ingredients and how your selection was prepared.
  • Made sure that your dinner arrived piping hot, just the way you like it. It wasn’t sitting under some heat-lamp getting lukewarm while the server was out back having a cigarette.
  • Kept filling and refilling your water glass without being asked.
  • Ensured your bread basket was never empty.
  • Brought the check promptly, and, it was accurate. You didn’t need your accountant to double-check the numbers.
  • Wished you a fond farewell making sure you didn’t leave any personal items behind.

If you’ve ever had that kind of experience and a friend later asked you “How was your dinner?” I bet you didn’t say, “I was satisfied with the restaurant and the service.” Heck no. I bet you said something along the lines of, “That was the nicest restaurant I’ve eaten at in a long time. We had a great time. Well worth the few extra bucks for the ambience and food, and the server was top-notch.”

Now, think of your client, the one you’re managing that project for at the moment. Don’t they expect the same level of service from you and your team that you experienced at that restaurant? Of course they do.

At the end of the project wouldn’t you want your client to say, “Wow, (your name here) was simply outstanding. Delivered ahead of schedule, below budget, and gave us more than we asked for.  And, (your name here) was so professional, always on top of things and kept us informed and engaged. I’ve never worked with someone like (your name here) before. The next time we have a project to do, I’m requesting (your name here) as the project manager.” Of course you would.

Over the years I’ve noticed that clients really don’t want to be “satisfied.” Why? Because achieving satisfaction is just meeting the requirements. And even though that’s the traditional definition of quality, it’s a pretty low bar these days. Clients want to be wowed, delighted, or even astonished. They want, and expect, us to go above and beyond given the level of investment in, and the importance of, their projects.

Now, many reading this post might ask “But LeRoy, isn’t that gold-plating and isn’t gold-plating verboten in traditional quality circles?” The answer is yes, but that’s all in the past in my view. Here’s how I see it.

We can gold-plate the deliverable, or, we can gold-plate the service, or both. In my experience, clients would like both, but if nothing else, gold-plating the service (how we do something, rather than what we are delivering) is what I think people really want and appreciate. They want to know we care and are willing to move heaven and earth to get the job done. They want to see us as advocates for their cause, not just checking off requirements delivered on our traceability matrix thinking that’s what project success really is.

Of course, there are those who are willing to accept a “satisfactory” experience if the price is low enough. That’s why, despite all the whining and complaining people do regarding air travel, for example, discount airlines make tons of money packing planes to the gills. Heck, even the major airlines offer “cheap seats” if you’re willing to cram yourself into a small seat, sit way in the back, and have to pay for a beverage. You see, all these air carriers have figured out that the flying public will endure the pain of the experience for the low cost of getting from Point A to Point B. But, that’s in our “private” lives as consumers. In business, it’s a different story.

Even though organizations negotiate tooth and nail to get things at the lowest cost they can, that same client is simply not willing to accept a substandard experience regardless of the price. Whatever they paid, they want the best experience in the world.

Project success, as I’m sure you have experienced, is no longer based on meeting the triple constraints. Far from it. In fact, the authors of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) have added a few more to the traditional time, cost, and schedule constraints. But I want to add what is turning out to be the most important one after scope, time, and cost: the experience. And by that I mean the experience they had when working with you as their project manager. And, it better be a good (no, great) one.

According to PwC’s Future of Customer Experience Report, seventy-three percent (73%) of those surveyed say that a positive customer experience is a key influence in their purchasing decisions. Thirty-two (32%) percent say they would terminate a business relationship with an organization after just one bad experience.

Are you any different than these folks? I doubt it. I’m not. Are your clients? No way.

Satisfaction is what the gurus of quality spoke about all those years ago. But, like everything else, the world has changed. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards once wrote “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” They were right, because everyone, your clients included, expects more!

More insights await at IIL’s Leadership & Innovation Online Conference, opening on March 7th. Join us for keynotes with Q&A, video presentations, two self-paced courses, plus networking and PDUs.


About the Author
J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program, and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.


Project Managers Need to Focus on the User Experience – Their Own!

By J. LeRoy Ward,  PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, CSPO   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL

Odd title, I know. What does it really mean? Let me phrase it as a question:

What’s it like to work with, or for, you? In other words, what’s the “experience” you provide to “users” when they engage with you?

Today, UX, or user experience, is of paramount concern among product manufacturers and service providers. Take Amazon, for example. As a Prime User, the UX of logging on, ordering, and receiving products within two business days (here in the U.S.) is almost “frictionless” as they like to say. It’s quick, easy, and accurate.

Returns? Not a problem. Tracking an order? Piece of cake. Delivery to my mailbox (or door if the package is too big)? The United States Postal Service has it down pat, and they even deliver on Sundays! That’s the UX that Amazon provides its customers.

But UX is also key in service delivery as well. Checked into a hotel recently, or rented a car, or went to the grocery store, or went to the bank? What was that like? What technologies have these industries instituted that made your experience better, faster, or more convenient? Okay, you get the point. Now, let’s turn to you.

What type of UX do you provide to your client? Is it frictionless?

For example, do you:

Respond quickly to questions or issues?
Always have the latest progress information on hand?
Anticipate their needs and reach out when required?
Share the bad news along with the good so they always know where they stand?
Show up on time, prepared for whatever meeting or event is scheduled?
Have a positive attitude?
Show creativity and flexibility in handling project matters?
Conduct your affairs with a high level of integrity and honor?
Place the client’s needs above yours or your company’s?
Do what you say you’re going to do, and in a timely manner?

On the Net Promoter Score survey, when asked “Would you recommend [your name here] to a family member, friend, or business colleague?” would your client answer “yes”?

If you can answer yes to all the questions above, including the Net Promoter Score, then your personal UX is at a very high level and you’re doing well. If not, you might want to start thinking about another approach.

What about your team? How would they evaluate your UX as it relates to your relationship with them?

In almost every Project Management 101 course and text where we, as project managers, are advised, if not admonished, to negotiate for the best team members we can find in our organizations, it’s as if there are folks out there who would jump at the chance of being on our team. Just like when you were a kid and you were waiting to be selected for the best baseball team in your local sandlot games.

But are your work colleagues really “hoppin’ from one foot to the other” waiting for you to negotiate hard to get them on your team? It depends. It depends on how you treated them the last time they were on your team.

I have always counseled project managers to ask themselves one key question regarding team members. “Why would anyone want to be on your team?” One thing I always did on projects was to meet with each team member individually and ask them what they wanted to get out of working on this project. If I could help them meet their goals I did; if not, I’d let them know.

At least they knew I was making an attempt to help them grow professionally. But that’s not all of course. Treating people with respect is just table stakes in this era. People want to have fun, be creative, and come to work excited about making a difference. If you can provide that type of environment, your UX will be off the charts.

How do you know what your UX is? Start by asking your sponsor and manager. Then have some “crucial conversations,” as some pundit once wrote, with those closest to you whom you know will be honest. If you don’t like what you hear, you can start working on those soft skills that really make a difference.

Hitting project “home runs” is not just about meeting deadlines and budgets; it even goes beyond bringing benefits to fruition. It’s making people feel great about their experience working with, or for, you. 

In the end, as another maxim puts it, “people may never remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

That’s your personal UX. Make it the best it can be.

Ready to improve your personal UX? IIL can help. Take a look at our Business Skills courses, or request a free consultation.


J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program, and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.


We Asked People Why They Earned the PMP® Credential

By J. LeRoy Ward,  PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, CSPO   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL 

Why do people earn the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential? Is it because, as the Project Management Institute (PMI)® reported in its 10th Annual Salary Survey, that PMPs earn 23% more than those who don’t hold the certificate? Perhaps.

Is it because it is the most ubiquitous and desired credential on earth, with PMI Today® reporting that as of April 30, 2018, there were 871,893 active PMPs?  Maybe.

Or is it because, as PMI® suggests, it is not based on any specific methodology and it can be easily transferred between industries, market segments, and geographic locations? Is it because  PMI conducts in-depth studies to ensure the PMP reflects current skills, knowledge and best practices; and, the credential encourages professional growth through a continuing credentialing requirement? Of course.

But to understand why people earn the credential, we need to ask them. That’s just what I did.

A while ago, I posted the following question in one of the many LinkedIn groups I belong to: What do you think is the main benefit you realized as a result of earning the PMP? 

Here’s a selection of responses from real people:

“Was [a] culmination of proof to myself that I have the knowledge to do the work”
“Don’t forget the ongoing education (requirement). There’s a degree of commitment to the PMP that adds to its validity.”
“It changed my perspective of handling projects. It gives a structured way to approach pretty much everything we do.”
“To stay competitive in the job market. Period.”
“…the certification…will…get rid of various addictions, to recycle and learn the practices another way.”
“Not all carpenters are alike. The certification gives those hiring you a comfort level that you’re serious about your profession.”
“..when I prepared for the certification, I learned about some topics …I didn’t know about. Gave me self-confidence..in spite of certifications being considered ‘a paper’ for some clients.”
“The greatest value for me was learning a more systematic approach than the way the Army was doing things.”
“Wanted to shape a project culture in the company and talking all with the same language.”
“The PMP gave me a guide to follow.”
“..most of all, it gave me the confidence to look for a new job. And of course, it helped me get that next job….and the next.”
“The association with PMI chapters brings greater value for your career.”

Based on all the responses I received, I can say with confidence that there are two primary reasons real people earn the PMP:

  • They see it as a challenge to meet the highest levels of professional standards
  • They want greater access to jobs and higher salaries

You can’t blame them, can you? Look at it another way—can 871,893 people be wrong?

Ready to earn your PMP? IIL can help. Learn more about our PMP Certification Prep course or request a free consultation

PMP, PMI and PMI Today are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. 


J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program, and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.

 


What is Project Management?

By J. LeRoy Ward,  PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, GWCPM, SCPM   |   Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL 

What do the Panama Canal and the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner have in common?

At first glance, you might say “absolutely nothing.” But, they have a lot in common. Both were the outcomes of projects. And although vastly different in every respect, the Panama Canal, and the Boeing 787 share two characteristics:

  1. Each is unique. There’s only one Boeing 787 Dreamliner and there’s only one Panama Canal.
  2. Each is the result of a temporary endeavor. In short, each had a definite beginning and an end.

Once completed, of course, the Panama Canal became operational, and once developed, the Boeing 787 went into service with many more being manufactured as I write this. In short, the design and construction of the Panama Canal, and the design and manufacture of the Boeing 787 were projects.

And these projects were led by competent and highly trained individuals, appropriately named Project Managers, who applied knowledge, skills, techniques, and tools, to all the project activities to produce the end result that met the requirements. That’s called Project Management.

Let’s get a bit more formal. According to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI)® A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), project management is defined as “the application of knowledge skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

Projects have been around for thousands of years. Ever see a picture of the Pyramids of Giza? That’s a project. How about the Great Wall of China? Yup, another project. What about the International Space Station? You guessed it…another project.

Projects come in all shapes and sizes. Have you planned a summer vacation lately? Well, that’s a project. And, how about all those home “projects” that take up our evenings and weekends? The name says it all, doesn’t it?

What are you doing at work these days? Are you working with a group of folks to get a particular product to market, developing a new app, or launching a marketing campaign? If you are, you’re working on a project. Projects are everywhere.

As projects become larger and more complex we break them down into various phases such as Initiating, Planning, Executing and so forth. Every industry has their project “life cycle” as it’s called. We do so because it’s a lot easier to estimate and control our work when we break it down into pieces, rather than trying to grapple with the whole thing at once.

We might even use certain sophisticated tools to help us schedule our project, or analyze risk to avoid trouble. All these activities are part of project management.

If the work you’re doing conforms to the two characteristics above, guess what, you’re working on a project, whether you call it that or not. And, the activities you’re engaged in to get the job done successfully is called project management. Finally, if you’re “leading the charge,” you’re the Project Manager.

So, welcome to the wonderful world of projects and project management. You’re in good company because there are millions more just like you – people who are working on projects every day, and may not have knowledge of formal project management methods. Take the next step by exploring our other blog posts on Project Management, and enrolling in introductory Project Management course from IIL.

New to Project Management? Start with a Project Management Fundamentals course from IIL

J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.