Today, no company can be immune to the current economic situation. So it is the time for many businesses to analyze their business model and risk profile. Economics experts join their voices stating that the best thing you can do to withstand the crisis is to improve your customer service and be attentive to customer needs.  Terry Leahy, the head of TESCO, a British-based international grocery and general merchandising retail chain, noted in one of his recent interviews that staying close to customers is the key to surviving the current, difficult economic conditions. “We learned some lessons, and the message is simple – stay with your customers. Listen to your customers.” For project managers, it’s important that you treat your customers as stakeholders.  John Mackey (CEO of Whole Foods) and Kip Tindell (CEO of The Container Store), who drove their companies with a constant growth over good and bad times, explain their take on stakeholders in this very interesting interview. It’s a must-read for executives in the current economic conditions. Lots of companies now will have a closer look at the opportunities offered by Web 2.0 tools. Online communities, blogs and social networks are great sources of information about your customers, their opinions and their needs. Corporate blogging has become a popular trend. Books are written about it. Blogs have become effective in allowing customers to speak to each other. There are hundreds of superb examples on the Web. Take the Starbucks Gossip blog, for example. It’s a powerful communication channel for the largest coffeehouse company in the world. Each post on Starbucks Gossip gets up to 200 comments. This is an endless source of hands-on information and valuable ideas from Starbucks lovers. Blogging is just one example. It’s important to be open to your customers, so in this respect, all means of communication are good -- blogs, forums, e-mail, phone, you name it. This will help you to lend an attentive ear to your customers’ voices and perceive their unmet needs. Companies that are not afraid to be open to their customers reap the rewards of customers’ trust. Yet another advantage is that they can implement ideas coming from their customers’ community to make the product or service better. The closest example to me is our project management software. We prioritize the development of Wrike’s new features, based on our users’ feedback and requests. Every voice counts, as we believe that a happy customer makes our business thrive. We can say that our customers help us improve the product, giving us tips on what direction of development to choose next. So listening to your customers is important for being able to survive in a harsh economic situation. But what’s even more important is being able to change your business based on your customer feedback and to do it quickly. Paying attention to your customers’ needs is the first step. The next one is being agile and adaptive to the changing requirements. Here’s where Project Management 2.0 practices and supporting tools can be of great help. Project Management 2.0, which is based on the vigor of collective intelligence and power of emergent structures, can help you incorporate customer feedback into your tactical plans much faster. First, a project blog, wiki or a project collaboration solution makes your project work more transparent for your clients. Having this insight into how you deliver the product or service your customers can introduce their ideas and thoughts on how it can be improved. Let’s say a customer leaves a comment on your blog or drops you an e-mail with a really brilliant idea that no one from your team had before. Still, it’s just an idea. Only you and people from you team know how to apply it to the project. This idea then can be input into your collaboration system, so that each member of your project team can develop this idea into something bigger and offer a way to incorporate this idea into your project. The project manager can then find the best way to fit the idea into the project development, so that it benefits all the stakeholders. The project then will be a result of the collective work of many minds. Emergent structures employed in the Project Management 2.0 applications will be the engine that makes this work possible. The whole process of incorporating customers’ feedback into the project development becomes much faster and easier. The company becomes truly agile and responsive. This means it will be more resistant to economic downturns. I would appreciate it if you could share your experience of fitting your clients’ feedback and requests into your project work. Have you used Web 2.0 and Project Management 2.0 tools for that? Please leave a comment below.
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