Complaints during the realization of a project are almost inevitable. Of course, you can aim for full success, but also knowing how to handle complaints is an important quality for a Project Manager.
The organization requires a consistent methodology of activities aimed at planning costs, resources and the project in general. All with one goal: to satisfy the customer.
For the success of any project, the project manager should provide effective, timely and accurate information for each function in the project life cycle.
A skilled management of the project brings consistency and results while minimizing customer complaints.
However, during a project, situations may arise in which complaints emerge because of misunderstandings or insolvencies with respect to the requirements of the project.
Claims management in the projects not only concerns the relationship with the end customer, but also the relationship with third parties, such as suppliers.
Usually the greatest risk comes when the products of a project are delivered and when they do not meet the requirements that may not have been registered or may have been misunderstood.
The project planning activity, especially the analysis of the requirements, serves exactly to avoid this unpleasant situation.
It is therefore important that sufficient time is devoted to gathering the needs, goals and needs of the stakeholders of the project and the end customer.
But when the complaint – unfortunately – arrives, we must try to manage it in the best way. Let’s see, then, what are the basic steps to manage it with negotiation.
- Make sure you understand the concerns of customers or stakeholders
- Demonstrate that you take customer or stakeholder concerns seriously
- Investigate what happened
- Respond to a customer or stakeholder’s complaint
- Prevention actions
- Time Management
- Budget and resource management
- Scope management
- Customer acceptance
Make sure you understand the concerns of customers or stakeholders
- Evaluate if you are the best person who can take care of their concerns. If necessary, the opportunity to speak with the superiors can be offered.
- Let the person speak in order to make sure he has the opportunity to fully explain his concerns and desires.
- Try not to interrupt or discuss.
- Take notes, if possible, while you are talking or write a summary immediately after the meeting.
Demonstrate that you take customer or stakeholder concerns seriously
It is not enough to be active, but you have to let them know that you have taken charge of their request.
At this point, it may be necessary to say that the problem should be further examined and offer to call them, preferably at an agreed time.
This can also be a useful strategy because it gives the “complaining” person time for reflection. It also gives the project manager the opportunity to meditate on what actually happened and to discuss the best way to respond to the complaint.
Investigate what happened
If you think the complaint is justified, you need to understand why the project caused this foul. This will reduce the likelihood of the same problem happening in the future.
Here are some questions that project management should ask in these cases:
- Is the complaint concerned with the conduct or behavior of a team member?
- Is the complainant dissatisfied with something that has been agreed as part of the protocol?
- Is there anything that can or should be changed in procedures or work practices following this incident?
Respond to a customer or stakeholder’s complaint
Do not be afraid to apologize, even if you do not agree with the complaint.
It is important to take the time to talk with customers or stakeholders or anyone who has made the complaint, in order to explain what has been done or what will be done in response.
It is also important to write what is said and what is agreed upon at this stage, in order to avoid further future problems.
It is essential to show that the complaint has been taken seriously, even if it is not believed that there is something that can change as a result of the complaint.
Project management is essentially a problem-solving methodology that ensures the timely and efficient delivery of the product or service with the aim of keeping the customer satisfied.
If you promise the customer that a project or product will be completed within a certain day, there are time constraints.
It is therefore necessary to honor the word or there would be the risk to damage the reputation of the project management and / or organization.
Project management includes the activities, processes and follow-up necessary to ensure the completion of the project, thus reducing customer complaints about missed deadlines.
Budget and resource management
Cost is usually of primary importance for customers and for the business. If the customer expects a price and receives another, complaints will for sure arise.
Cost and resource management ensures that work is completed in compliance with the approved budget and with the most effective use of resources.
An effective project management capability is therefore crucial to keep an eye on the issues that can cause a budget to escape control.
Scope Management ensures that the project includes all the activities necessary in order to complete it.
“Scope creep” is the term for unapproved changes that affect the success of the project.
If the project manager does not provide for changes to the processes that control the work, customer complaints can increase.
Projects are generally completed when the customer approves the item or service provided, signs the work order and officially accepts the property.
Customer satisfaction surveys are precious; one should always and continuously ask the client to evaluate the performance, so knowing what is important to him.
Feedback received through this process can help reduce future complaints.
Surely it is always better to prevent complaints than to find yourself having to manage one or, even worse, many.
An important aspect is therefore that of carefully filing all the project documents that are produced and received. Here is a list of the key documents to keep track of:
- Customer-supplier contracts
- Subcontracting contracts
- Project documentation
- Drawings and maps used during the project
- Delivery notes
- Acceptance reports of project products
- Tax documents such as invoices and receipts
- Summary of meetings
- Important correspondence regarding the project
- Work progress report.
Having all these project documents in hand, it will be possible to set up a correct strategy in order to respond to the complaint.