Published in MIS Asia – Was it good for you, honey?

How do we really measure customer satisfaction? ~ on IT projects!

Clearly not, I deduced as this particular person marched off. The waiter stood there looking perplexed. It was a busy day, hot and crowded.

I turned to my companion to hear how he was satisfied.

Ahhh, honey! He said, that was an experience…

It was the perfect shave, he practically soliquised in rhapsody. I wondered – isn’t a shave a shave?

Clearly not – a shave can be an experience. At the Art of Shaving, it’s an aromatherapy facial, hot towels, a freshly stropped blade and the personal service of a fetching attendant. A shave of the manly chin, I was told, is more than a Mach III blade in action.

I asked him to focus on our discussion: were projects products or services? Were they about deliverables – things? Or were projects also a service?

And if they were a service, how would we rate them?

Projects are a product

Yes, we decided, projects were about a product. Projects are about delivering something tangible – like a shave.

Yet getting to success is more than being OTOBOS (on time, on budget, on scope).

OTOBOS, even with a 10% variation is simply good hygiene. It’s like a C grade.

Yes, it takes focus, discipline and team work to get there, but OTOBOS is not a wow factor.

Consider, was it good for you honey? OTOBOS is scarcely even a smile factor.

Projects are a service experience

Project are also about intangibles – the experience. Many an executive has said to me, ‘We aim to survive our projects’.

Side bar comment: What would happen if we explicitly agreed the service experience as part of our project definition? For example:

–       Would you like an food court experience or a fine dining experience?

–       Would you like to be in the action or be a bystander? (Ride the river or watch the video)

–       How would you like this to feel? Like a Lexus experience or a bullock cart ride?

–       And the crucial business questions:

  • What are you prepared to pay?
  • What would it take to do this?

Else it might be “Fine dining at hawker center prices – with aircon” on one side while the other is thinking that they will organize a picnic where we each bring a dish.

In IT project terms, the experience might be something as novel:

  • Zero operational issues on day one (in contrast to 3 months of no order shipments)
  • Maintaining service standards in the business as the project continues (not needing to apologies to customers for erroneous statements or down time!)
  • Customer service is un-interrupted at cut-over.

(It’s almost embarrassing to admit this standard of service is not just common practice in our industry – even the great organizations slip-up.)

More satisfyingly, we could learn from the likes of Disney (an experience we are in) or Circus de Soleil (an experience we watch). Creating the intended customer experience is a professional capacity in customer relationship management.

It’s reported that 50% of an experience is emotional. If we recognize this factor in ‘was it good for you’ (or me for that matter!) then for an IT project, qualities like:

  • Respected and enabled
  • Fun and rewarding

Would influence both our design, how we choose to implement a system, our internal project processes and our resourcing.

This difference in product/service is measurable: Executives report projects as 15-20% as less successful. They have the same data on deliverables, on OTOBOS. Executives are flagging something more: their perception of the project from their experience. They reflect on the pain they’ve born that’s seen as ‘outside the project’ as it is not a physical deliverable – but it is a result.

This affects the value that executives attribute to a project.

As more businesses focus on creating a great customer’s experience, executives and other staff  will expect this of IT projects – whether they state it or not.

Project managers and teams can develop a great reputation by considering service in their project approach. Projects earn it when they deliver to the agreed service standard.

Guidelines for Service Goals:

  1. State your service goals explicitly. Develop an explicit customer experience intent.
  2. Define what you will need from the business for this to be achieved (data clean up, staffing back fill, additional testing, training, culture change, funds). Define what you need to do yourself.
  3. Specifically identify and manage the risks to the service related results, in addition to the regular deliverables results
  4. When you deliver, get a reference from the business for a great job
  5. Attach a results based bonus to specific goals.

If it was good for you honey, then share in the good.

Yes, I can hear those who say ‘don’t to this, it makes it too hard to reach agreement’. Let’s be blunt here – if the business doesn’t value the service goal then they won’t invest in it – and they then own the choice.

Each of the ‘experience’ goals listed above has a multi-million dollar down side if not delivered. That’s worthy of investment – and of due credit.

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