Delivering better customer service through better project/program management

“Customer service” — along with “value-add” or “quality assurance” — is one of those traditional phrases that can remind us of a different era.

Whilst the focus on customer service has changed in recent years, I argue it is still needed, and many organisations suffer from a lack of customer service design and understanding.

One great introduction to what customer service is about comes from the training organization Video Arts, founded by John Cleese of  “Monty Python” fame. With comedy skits, they illustrate excellent customer service through funny examples of what not to do.

Check out the following very short clips:


One of the main mistakes organisations and companies make is believing that customer service ONLY affects frontline staff.  The reality is that everyone from the Account General Manager to the back-office developer is responsible for delivering outstanding customer service.

For example, Siemens found in 2009 that including back-office staff in customer service training actually had a direct impact on improved levels of customer satisfaction (20% reported increase year-on-year), even though those employees were not in direct contact with the customers.

So how can program and project management help to better deliver customer service?

The key here is broad-based stakeholder engagement. Perhaps by calling it customer engagement, we can better appreciate the level of service a program or project needs in order to be successful.

Of course, the enemy of great customer service is good customer service. Offering a “so-so” service deters customers from complaining — but complaints are like gold dust. A proactive organisation can improve service quality by taking those criticisms seriously and making changes.

To go the extra mile, Graham Harvey suggests focusing on the customer experience through the customer’s own six senses.

Many account executives already look to create a great feeling and great rapport with the client (emotional), and dress smart on sight (visual).

But how many of us would think to choose the after-shave or perfume (smell) we wear, as a direct statement of our commitment to our customers? Singapore Airlines, for example, mandates one chosen brand of perfume/after-shave for their stewards and stewardesses.

We should think about how we speak and communicate (auditory). What does the quality of food (gustatory) provided in client workshops say about our organisations? Finally, what does your hand-shake (somatosensory) communicate to your client (over-firm or wet-fish)?

The aim is to direct efforts and energy into improving every possible interaction with the client.

With this in mind, many companies are asking for open responses from customers evaluating the service they have received. And instead of adhering to scripts and rules, forward-thinking businesses are training their full staff (including us program and project managers) to appreciate their customers’ concerns and take action as needed.

When did you last think about improving customer service as a project/program manager?


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  1. […] Delivering better customer service through better project/program management […]


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