In the day to day life of a project manager, s/he interacts with several different customers — each unique in their own way. And like them, their project requirements are quite unique as well. Can the same approach work for all? No!
Let’s take the example of a customer who wants you to develop a training program that is user-friendly and very contemporary. Though this may sound simple, it is indeed a complex requirement – essentially, a combination of several unique needs. As a solution provider, you need to elicit the right needs by asking appropriate questions as well as articulating the customer’s thoughts. During many such discussions with the customer, you may often find that the requirements are much deeper and complex than stated.
What is the key to managing customer requirements effectively? Understanding the unstated problems of the customer and providing solution that addresses them.
In simple terms, customers have ‘problems’ and so you shouldn’t expect them to give ‘good, articulated’ requirements. Instead, the stated requirement is only a basis to get started. And therefore it becomes critical to understand the ‘problem’ the customer is trying to address with the stated need, in our example, the user-friendly and contemporary training. Many-a-times, the solution to their problem is different from the ‘requirement’ they state, sometimes subtly and sometimes drastically.
Articulating a customer problem and tailoring the solution to address the ‘problem’ instead of a solution that meets their ‘requirement’ can take you a long way in customer service.
As a customer facing manager for several years, I have found the following to be effective ways of managing customers and their requirements: