Posted on March 31st, 2009 View Comments
Feedback collected early in a project’s lifecycle critically affects many projects to better results. Marc Christopher and Jason Byrd, architects at Phillips Architecture in Raleigh, NC, share an experience that occurred in the schematic design phase of a new activity center for a local church.
Having used a previously successful process to collect programming information about the project, Marc and Jason met with the client to review the initial schematic designs. The meeting went smoothly, and both left feeling the project was on track. However, after a survey was sent to the eight participants, two attendees rated the efforts “needing improvement.”
Surprised, Jason quickly followed up, and discovered that these project participants hadn’t been through an architectural project of this nature before – and therefore had no basis to set expectations for what a schematic design was, nor what the deliverables from that phase included. After some discussion (and education) everyone was up to speed. Subsequent surveys revealed a very high level of excellence, consistently exceeding the client’s more informed expectations. The project resolved successfully. Of the experience, Jason says, “Had we never sent a survey requesting feedback, we would have been oblivious to the client’s feelings as to where we stood to date.” Armed with this information, Jason could adjust expectations accordingly by walking through the project’s process clearly.
Taking the lesson learned more broadly, Marc and Jason now approach new projects differently. Rather than take for granted an understanding of the architectural project’s process and deliverables, an initial project conversation is held to:
- Clearly quantify expectations for the next deliverable.
- Establish a clear timeline to meet those expectations.
- Communicate any deviations in advance.
“While these items may seem obvious, we sometimes take for granted that we are delivering in accordance with our clients expectations, ” says Marc.
Recent projects have accordingly seen consistently high marks across the board, as the improved processes are taking place.
Posted on March 25th, 2009 View Comments
Chris Hazlett, President of Integrate (www.integratechange.com) wrote an excellent blog post about focusing on client needs. You can read it here. Though Chris’s business of custom software development differs in many ways from Architects and Engineers, the service delivery nature of work is very much the same. An excerpt from the post sheds light on the right attitude to have about your clients:
Most recently, I received a call from one of the division heads at Merrill Lynch about the software we developed for them, Account and Account::Coaching. If you have ever gone through a merger at a big company, you know that one of the hardest things to merge (other than the personnel) are the different software systems that run the businesses. So when this director called me to talk about Account, I thought they were going to ask what the best way to decommission it is. To my surprise, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch were so happy with the system that Bank of America’s representatives have made the decision to continue to use it into the foreseeable future.
The reason I tell that story is not for accolades. I tell that story because I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished, not just in the software arena (It’s been running for 2 1/2 years without being touched by us), but because of how proud I am that Integrate got it right for this client. Low-maintenance and ease of use are certainly worth praise, but the service we had to provide to get it right is more important to me. (emphasis by Ryan Suydam).
All to often in service delivery of any sort, we tend to lose sight of the service we provide, and focus instead on how great the product of that service is. If clients only needed great product – a market would exist to buy and sell products (a completed set of plans, for example) without the added cost of service included.
Rather, clients need care, attention, and a vast array of problems solved. A product doesn’t actually solve problems, and often times presents a host of new problems altogether. The product is all about ME – and my “masterpiece”. The service, on the otherhand, is about YOU – the client – and how I can help YOU with the problems you face.
As you compete for work against increasingly desperate competitors – who often have “better” examples of previous product – stay focused on the client’s service needs today. Take pride in how well the service is delivered first and foremost, and your clients are sure to feel the product delivered is a success. Measure your ability to provide quality service by collecting feedback often!
Posted on March 11th, 2009 View Comments
DesignFacilitator is sponsoring PSMJ’s Circle of Excellence Conference in Orlando March 19 & 20, 2009. Visit our table to learn more about our Client Feedback Tool and what it can do to increase the prosperity of your A/E firm.
“PSMJ’s Circle of Excellence represents the top 20% of firms participating in PSMJ’s Financial Performance Survey that achieve the best overall business performance in the A/E industry.
This distinction is awarded based upon a combination of 11 performance benchmarks that measure business operations in terms of profitability, growth, cash flow, overhead control, business development, project performance, and employee satisfaction. As a group, PSMJ’s 2008 Circle of Excellence firms averaged 21% revenue growth, 27% profits (as a percentage of net revenues) and less than 10% employee turnover.
PSMJ’s 2009 Circle of Excellence Conference is going to be held on March 19-20, 2009 in Orlando, Florida.” – PSMJ Resources, Inc.
Posted on March 4th, 2009 View Comments
In the late 1920′s, at the Hawthorne Works factory near Chicago, management began experimental changes to the worker environment and measured the impact on productivity. Initially, the lighting level was increased for the workers, and productivity improved. When the lighting level was reduced, productivity increased. Additional experiments led to similarly inconclusive results.
Later, in the 1950′s, psychologists summarized the findings as the “Hawthorne Effect” stating that, quite simply, just being measured improved productivity.
The same principals apply to design firms today. As a leader of a firm, team, or project, you want to ensure that all project participants are taking care of the client with the best possible care. Until now, there has been no way to measure the client relationship objectively.
Using a feedback system like ours, and putting it in the hands of anyone who interacts with clients, you now have the tools to measure and track the health of client relationships. Knowing they are being measured, your designers, engineers, and architects will naturally tend to improve the service they provide – regardless of what the actual feedback results are. Combining this Hawthorne Effect improvement with the insights you receive through regular feedback checkups will give you and your staff unprecidented ablity to exceed your clients’ expectations.
In this market, there can be no better way to thrive than to take better care of your clients than anyone else.