Sunday, July 1, 2012

Client Satisfaction Surveys The Easy Way

Client Satisfaction is one of the key measures of success for any project.  Yet I find, too often, that project managers do not formally check with their clients on whether they are satisfied with the progress of their project.

In a couple of organizations where I have worked, I suggested that we carry out Client Satisfaction Surveys and the idea was always well supported.  In one organization, a highly detailed and overly complex questionnaire was developed, with poor results, and in the other organization the survey was still being scientifically designed when I left over six months later.

I think Client Satisfaction Surveys are absolutely necessary for all projects, but I also think they should be very simple, for the benefit of both the client and the project manager.

Here is my recommendation for a simple survey that can be completed quickly and easily with your client sponsor, yet will provide you with a valuable gold mine of information.
Let me walk through the various sections of the survey:

Please provide us with your overall satisfaction with the project (check one)

Notice I have kept the satisfaction levels to an absolute minimum.  Your client is either completely satisfied, dissatisfied or somewhere in between.  Don't try and grade various levels of "in between".  It really does not matter - some things need to be fixed and that's all you need to know.   By keeping it simple, you are more likely to keep up the practice of doing the survey, you make it easier for your client sponsor to pick the right level, and you can compare satisfaction levels across projects in a more consistent way.

The levels should be associated with a dashboard indicator icon (green, red, yellow) and the appropriate icon should be shown on your Project Dashboard, with a drill down capability to the details provided in this survey.
Your PMO should aggregate all individual project survey results (using say, 1 for each red, 3 for each yellow and 5 for each green), and then show the average rating for all projects.  By tracking this average on a monthly basis, the PMO can see if they are helping all projects to improve client satisfaction.

What aspects of the project are working well?

It is always a good idea to start on a positive note.  This will help to balance the survey and give positive reinforcement to the good processes being used and good work being done by the project manager and project team.

What aspects of the project could be improved?

The client sponsor should summarize here any areas they feel need to be improved, whether processes, people or results.  Bullet points should suffice.  If the project manager needs more detail, they should discuss this in a separate session.  Again, the purpose here is to keep the process simple.

Are there any other comments you would like to add?

This space can be used by the client to add anything they wish about the project, project manager or project team.  

Some Survey "DOs" and "DON'Ts"

-  DO the survey privately and in person with your Client Sponsor (for example, after a regular status meeting or during a lunch meeting).
-  DO the survey regularly (monthly is good).
-  DO make sure that you address all items raised as needing improvement before the next survey.
-  DO make the results of the survey visible on your project dashboard to all (your project team, your management, client management).  Visibility always help to make sure problems are addressed promptly, one way or another.

-  DON'T try and respond during the survey review meeting to any problem areas being raised (unless to just request any needed background information on the problem).  Any immediate defense of noted problem areas will only raise the ire of your client and serve no useful purpose.  Better to reflect on all the items raised and come back in a separate session to show your client how you and your project team  have addressed or will address all problem areas raised in the survey.

Client Satisfaction Surveys are an extremely easy and powerful tool for building your project's success.  If you are not doing them regularly, I hope you will try one out soon.

Let us know about any Client Satisfaction Survey practices that are working well for you.

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