Perfecting Service Management

Issue #85

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Customer Advocacy - Project Management Basics, Part 2
by Craig Bailey

As we discussed in our last issue, effective project management is essential for ensuring holistic delivery on the commitments your firm has made to the customer, and is an important skill to performing as a highly effective customer advocate. The basics of project management include:

- Define the boundaries, resources and stakeholders
- Divide and conquer
- Obtain commitments and caveats
- Document and publish the plan
- Conduct periodic status meetings
- Check-in on critical tasks
- Communicate progress

While the previous issue discussed the first three topics, we focus this article on the final four "basics" of project management.

Document and publish the plan

Once you know the project boundaries, resources, stakeholders, tasks and activities, it is time for you to prepare the official plan. Do this (quickly) through 2-3 iterations that are reviewed by members of the team, before announcing project commitments to the organization. The objective is to ensure that all members of the team are aligned and prepared to deliver on key milestones. Once this has been established, publishing the plan beyond the project team will serve to create cross-functional/organizational awareness and alignment.

Conduct periodic status meetings

To ensure the project remains on track, you will want to establish and conduct periodic team meetings/conference calls. While the frequency depends on a number of factors (project complexity, duration, proximity to completion of critical milestones and status), these are typically conducted on a weekly basis. The objective is to ensure ongoing coordination and integration of project activities of ALL participants. Effective meeting management is crucial as every member of your team is busy, not only with fulfilling their commitments to this particular project, but likely with other duties as well. As such, you are encouraged to focus time on facilitating discussions related to any issues that may have arisen and a review of critical path items (discussed below).

However, will you (the project manager) wait for the weekly project meeting to obtain the status of critical tasks and activities? You already know the answer to this...

Check-in on critical tasks

While projects often involve dozens, if not hundreds, of tasks, there are typically only a handful of critical path items - those items that by completing late will have a direct impact on the project timeline. These are the tasks that you will want to perform status checks on between project status meetings to ensure that they remain on track. If (or should I say when) a critical path item is off track, you need to engage immediately to determine what you can do to remediate challenges or remove obstacles.

A principle to live by here is: if you don't check on the status of project tasks, you can safely assume that they aren't getting done!"

Communicate progress

There are (at least) two key audiences that you need to communicate project status to, each with an appropriate level of detail.

  1. The immediate and extended project team - These are the individuals within the inner-circle of your project team, where detail-level status reporting is appropriate. This can include both internal (to your organization) and external (customers and/or 3rd party service providers) resources.
  2. Project sponsors and/or stakeholders. These are typically higher-level individuals that only require top-level project status information communicated via an executive-level project status report. In most cases, this can and should be communicated in a one-page overview.

Regardless of the audience, a key element to reporting on project status is the "color-code." The color-code provides a quick read-out on overall project status to any audience. Project status color-codes are as follows:

  • Green - The project is on track to achieve milestones. There may be issues but they are surmountable.
  • Yellow - A risk or obstacle exists which has taken, or has a high potential to take, the project off track from achieving milestones.
  • Red - The project is presently off track and will likely not meet milestones. Remedial action is required to get things back on track or milestones may need to be reset.

In closing, consider the above to be "the basics." I firmly believe that an effective project manager can lead the efforts to build anything from a bicycle to a rocket ship. That is, project management is a core competency in and of itself. Leading a team of subject-matter-experts by systematically organizing efforts and effectively managing risks, assumptions and expectations through continuous communications ensures the successful achievement of important goals and objectives.

If you have a critical project that you want to ensure achieves desired outcomes, or one that continues to miss the mark, give us a call. We would be happy to provide insight and guidance on approaches we have taken to ensure project success in numerous situations. And, if it makes sense, we'd be happy to engage with you to drive the project to achieve desired outcomes.

View previous articles in this series.

Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down

This column is devoted to memorable customer experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly. This issue provides an example of less-than-exemplary customer service.

We recently went for a family photo session; not always the most fun with 3 young kids. We deliberately booked it early in the morning (
9:00AM), knowing these places always get backed up. We rushed all morning to get there exactly on time, only to learn that some of the photographers hadn't shown up, and one of the 8:30 appointments was still waiting for their turn. With each passing 15 minutes or so, another group would arrive, lengthening the queue faster than they could service it. Finally another photographer arrived at 9:30 and in we went. Not so bad, we thought, until we weren't done for another hour, after 5 elaborate background changes by our overly artistic photographer, who informed us this wasn't her real job but she was helping out for the holiday season. By the end, the manager realized this was going on too long and sent a seasoned photographer in to help out and hurry things along (and take the best pictures of the session). As tired as we were, we felt even worse for the enormous group of people still waiting, some of whom had been waiting since we started our marathon session.

Editor's note: 'Tis the season…for seasonal help. Even for companies that do a great job of incenting and rewarding their employees to provide excellent customer service, it can be easy to overlook seasonal employees. These employees might have just as much interaction with customers during this time of year; the fact that they are not permanent employees should be transparent to the customer. By making them feel a part of the team and providing them the same incentives to keep customers satisfied, companies can go a long way to making sure everyone has a happy holiday season!

Have your own customer service experience to share?
Email us. Names will be changed to protect the guilty....

View previous Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down articles.


+ Customer Advocacy - Project Management Basics, Part 2
+ Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
+ Recommended Reading

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Customer Centricity Partners with
Customer Centricity, in partnership with, is offering a free ROI calculator to assist customers in obtaining approval for investing in contact center improvement initiatives. And, for those who would like to take the ROI analysis to the next level, Customer Centricity is offering a no-cost / no-obligation 30 minute consultation. Check it out for yourself!

Recommended Reading
Several months ago we profiled Southwest Airlines as a case-study in customer centricity. Following up on that, we recommend CRM Magazine article Ringing Online Travel Bells by Alexandra DeFelice. The article profiles Southwest Airlines as a leader in online marketing and a first-mover in the race to own customer relationships.

Seminar in Malaysia
Join Customer Centricity Founder and President Craig Bailey for a seminar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10-11 April 2006. Rescheduled from October 2005, the seminar covers both strategic and tactical approaches for a company to become customer centric. At a strategic level, we will clearly outline a road-map for creating a customer centric organization. At a tactical level, we will cover practical approaches to enable customer service representatives to deliver top-notch service. Please contact us for more information.

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In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

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