Customer involvement in any project is very important. But customers also are humans and you can rest assured that with every new project – the way it is unique, your customer experience WILL be unique; either pleasant or unpleasant. Things can get very challenging, if you meet a customer who is controlling and/or unwilling to commit. Even worse: sways the users/team to “rollback” their decisions.
In recent past, we started to have problems with scope definition with our customer and the initial sessions turned unproductive. So our project management team got together internally to assess the problem and possibly rectify it. It was necessary to identify the “type” of customer and I started looking for some answers/similar experiences. I came across Mike’s post on customer engagement. As Mike suggests, customer engagement will get productive if your customers can be identified by “CRACK” acronym – that stands for:
In our case, the controlling customer manager was just a R (Representative of the team) but missing everything else. The users were afraid and unwilling to express their needs, decisions and concerns in front of the manager. And we were expected to understand and rectify the business problem. IT team tried few tricks like JAD sessions, One-on-one discussion with the manager to help the individual understand importance of scope finalization and moving ahead. Things went 1 step ahead, but 2 step back.
Direct communication was not successful and we were not in a position to bypass the manager. In this case, the one trick that worked for us was: Questions/Surveys. We developed a 2 page survey and distributed it to the whole customer team, including the manager to define the scope.
The statistics that came back from the survey helped us show the manager the actual needs and to arrive at the scope for the project. This experience reminded us that: It is not just your analytical skills and technical expertise that are important. Dealing with difficult individuals and especially customers can test your people skills. You will need to reach deep down in your bag of techniques and experience to handle such situations.
Your patience, collaboration and interaction skills will be tested. Only experience can help you successfully navigate such situations. Connect, talk and try finding the answers with people who have been through such situations.
Because – Soft stuff (skill) is the hard stuff.