Project Management is a Service Business

There are Five Dimensions of Service that Project Managers should keep in mind as they provide project management services to their customers and teams.

Let's start with a simple question: why do customers switch?

Analysis shows that the answer across industries is:

  • 15% because they found a better product
  • 15% because they found a cheaper product
  • 20% were bugged by too little contact and individual attention
  • 49% because the attention they received was poor in quality

One of the related quotes I like is from Tom Peters: "More than 2 out of 3 defections can be attributed to how people feel about dealing with you"


So, I propose that Project Managers adopt the goal to understand the five dimensions by which Service is perceived by customers, to recognize the need to establish mechanisms to track and improve effectiveness on these five dimensions, and that they do it.

At the heart of a Service Business are the Customer Requirements. And in this domain: Perception is all there is -- Manage it!

We have to focus on what the customer perceives as important. And the customer perceives how well you meet his needs through 5 service dimensions with unequal importance.

Dimensions     Customers' Weight

  1. Reliability            30%
  2. Responsiveness   25%
  3. Assurance           20%
  4. Empathy             16%
  5. Tangibles              7%

Let's pay closer attention to these dimensions.

1. Reliability    30%

Definition: The ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately
Measures (example of): First time full resolution of issues, number of Repeat Problems, On time delivery, number of Missed Commitments, Production problems post delivery.

2. Responsiveness   25%

Definition: The willingness to help customers and provide prompt service
Measures (example of): Number of times the phone rings before we respond, Time to return calls and mails, questions left open for a long time.

3. Assurance    20%

Definition: The knowledge and courtesy of yourself and project team members and their ability to convey trust and confidence
Measures (example of): Mostly Subjective, number of similar questions asked several times, number of escalations.

4. Empathy    16%

Definition: The caring, individual attention provided to the customer
Measures (example of): Mostly Subjective, number of follow up calls to the customer, number of unsolicited assistance proposal

5. Tangibles    7%

Definition: The appearance of physical facilities, equipment, Team members, and communication materials
Measure : Very Subjective

So, what can we do?

Keep these 5 dimensions in mind while playing on our strengths:

  • Professional Skills & Experience: Business and Processes knowledge, Tools and Techniques, Risks Identification and Management, Scope definition and changes management, Schedule definition and progress tracking, Contracts implementation, Issues Resolution...


  • Soft skills: Active listening, Innovation, Responsiveness, Knowledge Management and Experience sharing, Reliability, Assurance, Leadership, Empathy, Team building, Transversal management.


As PMs we are well equipped to provide superb services as long as we do not forget to consider that Everyone is a Customer (Team Members, Partners, Suppliers, Customers, Management, Sponsors...).


How to further improve?

Focus on the above 5 Dimensions, Track results systematically and Review them daily, Self-Define improvement plans, Implement them and check progress, Share things that work with others...

Perception is all there is -- Manage it!  And keep in mind that 60% of customer satisfaction is purely subjective.

Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at