Customer Satisfaction

Let us first define the term customer satisfaction. Looking for a definition of "satisfaction", we find the following via Merriam-Webster online search:

  1. the payment through penance of the temporal punishment incurred by a sin
  2. reparation for sin that meets the demands of divine justice
  3. fulfillment of a need or want
  4. the quality or state of being satisfied
  5. (...)
  6. compensation for a loss or injury
  7. (...)
  8. (...)
  9. (...)

We take 3, and understand customer satisfaction as fulfillment of customer needs or wants, regarding thereason or problem why they started the project. For any other project, we interpret it as stakeholder satisfaction referring to those stakeholders who initiated the project.

Before defining a project goal, let alone project requirements and specifications, anyone who initiates a project needs or wants to solve a certain problem. Based on this, project stakeholders, especially customers – consciously or unconsciously - form expectations towards the results of that project. In early stages of definition phase, the project manager takes over the responsibility to identify, clarify, and visualize these expectations, usually in form of requirements and specifications. During planning phase, he or she refines those expectations into detailed project planning. In implementation and closure phase, the project manager and his or her team execute the project plans in order to create results that meet the stakeholders' expectations.

When talking about needs, wants, and expectations in real life, we usually have to manage different interpretations of those needs, wants, or expectations – explicitly or implicitly. This is the main challenge of stakeholder management. These interpretations are different for different stakeholders, and they can change over time. Thus, stakeholder satisfaction takes on a very subjective character, and its measurement cannot be exact. It is rather a qualitative or statistical analysis.

Measuring Stakeholder or Customer Satisfaction

In order to measure the satisfaction of stakeholders or customers we suggest carrying out a stakeholder or customer satisfaction survey in the form of structured interviews. We carry out these interviews with representatives of the customer organization. The following list of topics can serve as an interview guideline.


(1) Project Results
Scope
Main and sub-units of hardware meet requirements / specifications
Main and sub-units of software meet requirements / specifications
Training of end users
Documentation of work and results
Other contractual obligations
Schedule
Achievement of milestone plan
Achievement of delivery schedules
Coordination of customer support
Coordination of third parties' support (sub-suppliers, government offices, etc.)
Budget
Achievement of cost / payment plan
Pricing of changes
Pricing of claims
(2) Relationship
Joint meetings
Communication of project status
Communication of problems
Resolution of conflicting interests
Handling of crisis / disaster situations
Joint social events corresponding to major milestones
(3) Project Management
Project planning
Transparency of execution and controlling
Risk events
Change management
Claim management and settlement
Acceptance procedures
Handover of results
(4) Overall Satisfaction

In case there are a higher number of users in the customer organization who have to use the project results, we suggest supporting the survey by customer satisfaction questionnaires. These questionnaires cover the topics of the table above, plus questions about the usability of the project results: system, facility, products, software applications, services, etc.

Example of a customer satisfaction questionnaire


1 = strongly do not agree
2 = do not agree
3 = partially agree / partially do not agree
4 = agree
5 = strongly agree
1 2 3 4 5 n/a
Scope
1 I am satisfied with the system's overall performance
2 I am satisfied with the handling of the system
3 I am satisfied with the system's operational speed
4 I am satisfied with the results the system produces
5 I am satisfied with the operations instructions
6 I am satisfied with the training on that system
... etc.

Depending on the customer – contractor relationship, and depending on the success of the project as a whole, it can be wise to hire neutral consultancy when building interview guidelines or questionnaires. In some cases, we even recommend having a neutral consultancy company carrying out the interviews and the questionnaire based survey. However, interview guidelines and questionnaires need to be tailored to the concrete content of the project.

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