Look, I don’t think I have to tell anyone that is reading this article that project management in the AV space is hard. There is something about always being last on the jobsite with consultants, GC’s, architects and clients staring at you (usually with their arms crossed) as you are trying to button up their systems to make them work as promised all while meeting a deadline that wasn’t reasonable and became less reasonable as your work got pushed back so other trades could have the time they needed.
Sometimes it almost feels like there is a conspiracy against the AV contractor because I’ve never seen the carpet or ceiling guy have a long and painful approval process to get a few extra days to finish their work.
However, after decades of this serving as the norm, let’s just say that this is the way it is and with little obvious change in the future, it is the way that it will be. So without much wiggle room for eliminating project anomalies, there has to be other focuses to make sure as integrators we manage our reputation and keep our clients happy. Which is why it has occurred to me in recent years that managing projects isn’t as much about the unrealistic deadlines (those are just part of the deal) as it is about creating better customer experiences. Begging the question, how is your organization utilizing project management to create happier project stakeholders?
Think Of Project Managers As Eyes, Ears and Voice Of The Brand Onsite
Throughout my career I have come to realize that project management is an art form. Those that do it well can make your company a hero, while the wrong person in that role can make you the goat.
For large projects, the PMs may find themselves almost living onsite attending meetings and updating status reports for about half a dozen different people who are asking for them. They are also the one that needs to manage the gaps between what the sales person has promised to the customer and what the installers are finding as they attempt to deliver it. Furthermore, they are the ones that have to figure out how to deliver the news to often unhappy stakeholders who are running on short fuses trying to manage issues that are often far more (seemingly) important than the status of the AV project onsite.
In short, the project manager role takes a certain amount of assertiveness; the kind of assertive that doesn’t get taken advantage of. However, it also takes empathy, job knowledge and a willingness to step over people sometimes when things have to get done. However, the project managers that I have seen do the best work do one thing differently than all of their counterparts.
They. Put. Customers. First
I know that project managers aren’t sales people and they certainly don’t hold the title of customer service representative. However, project managers that put their clients first are far more impactful; not only on project success, but on customer retention as well.
While my observations are based on my experiences, the reason I believe this to be true is because in the end the challenges of projects that we do are very similar regardless of the integrator. And although not all integrators are created equal, deep down I do believe that most have the capabilities to deliver whatever it was they committed to. But the customer centric project manager is just something I don’t see often enough. Too often in fact it feels like the PM is almost fighting a battle with the stakeholders and more times than not it is one that they cannot win.
Perhaps the best thing about a customer first project management approach is that it is relatively easy to do. It goes back to service with a smile AND taking the application of all that we know it will take to do a job well and making sure it isn’t about fighting deadlines and winning change orders, but rather about making darn sure that when we get that final signoff (and check) that the customer feels like our firms took care of them. Who knows…but I suspect if we make this philosophy a big part of what we do, there may be more opportunities with each and every customer that we serve.