Posted on May 27th, 2009 View Comments
Budget overruns, price negotiations, and zero-dollar line items. We’ve all done them, and if not, they’ve been asked for. Enjoy this little video for the next two minutes, and then come back for more:
Sorry for the cliche, but in “these tough times” everyone is angling for a discount. Thin margins are being attacked. How do you respond?
Consumers of professional services rely on your fear of rejection when they engage in discount games. What if I say no? Will I lose my client? What if he goes to my biggest competitor? These questions, in the heat of negotiation, often lead to reduced or eliminated profits – and worse, the loss-leaders.
What’s missing is information. Information you NEED to know to make good decisions. Fear comes from NOT knowing what your client thinks and feels about the services you provide. Fear leads to irrational, emotional decisions that erode profits, and ultimately reduce the long-term perceived value of what you provide.
Feedback, collected frequently and consistently, will let you KNOW what your client thinks. You can be confident to what level he VALUES your services. There may be clients who legitimately feel like they got less than they expected – but most are simply negotiating. With 50% margins, negotiation might be okay. But that’s typically not the case. A 10% discount will most likely lead to 50% of your profit evaporating before your eyes.
Start asking for feedback early in the relationship. Continue asking throughout the project lifecycle. Then, when the invoices go out, and negotiation begins, you know where you stand. You may still choose to drop your price – but most likely you will feel confident that it’s not needed. After all, you met or exceeded expectations consistently, so why should you?
Posted on May 20th, 2009 View Comments
Focusing on the benefits of client feedback, the May 18th, 2009 issue of The Zweig Letter profiled our Client Feedback Tool. Under the heading “The Power of the Survey:”
Mike Phillips, president and founder of Phillips Architecture, PA (Raleigh, NC), a 30-person architecture firm, has developed an electronic survey to keep track of quality issues at all stages during a project.
The survey includes six process-oriented questions, such as “How well does our firm’s process assist you in managing your project schedule.” The firm takes data compiled from the survey and presents it to clients, and answers are scaled relative to client expectations, Phillips says.
“We help solve our client’s problems with their projects,” he says. “Our sense is that the downturn in the market affects our clients more than us, and is a tremendous opportunity to show them that we can help.”
To view the entire newsletter, please visit The Zweig Letter.
Posted on May 14th, 2009 View Comments
DesignFacilitator is pleased to announce a partnership with PSMJ for their Premier Award for Client Satisfaction!
PSMJ has partnered with DesignFacilitator, creators of the only feedback tool designed specifically for the architecture and engineering community, to operate feedback collection for PSMJ’s Premier Award for Client Satisfaction. The program uses feedback from design firms’ clients to identify some of the best A/E/C firms across the nation. You can enroll to participate ($495) here. For a limited time, participants can receive the entire cost of their entry fee back if they subscribe to our Client Feedback Tool.
Upon joining the program, PSMJ will send participants a link to the participation form at DesignFacilitator’s website.
Participants will enter their contact details and the names/emails of the clients they would like surveyed.
The DesignFacilitator team will contact participants with further details and instructions including guidance on how to introduce the survey to your clients, with strategies to maximize your return rate.
A week later, the survey will be sent using DesignFacilitator’s Client Feedback Tool. Those who would like to receive a sample of the survey may request one by emailing PSMJ@designfacilitator.com.
The results will be collected over 30 days. Within two weeks of completion, participants will receive a copy of the results, both a summary and detailed responses. Participants’ results will only be collated and delivered to PSMJ for purpose of the award rankings, and will not be published in any way to anyone else.
When the results from all participants are in and the program is over, awards will be determined based on the quantity and quality of feedback received, using DesignFacilitator’s “Feedback Quotient” formula. The 2009 award winners will be announced in February 2010 and featured at PSMJ’s Circle of Excellence Conference in March 2010.
All participants will also be entitled to a $495 discount on subscriptions to DesignFacilitator’s Client Feedback Tool purchased within 60 days of program completion. For more details contact us at 866-4-DES-FAC or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on May 7th, 2009 View Comments
We all know that good news regarding the business economy has been scarce in the past couple years. Architecture firms have certainly not been spared the downward spiral. In January of this year, the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropped to the lowest level in history. The good news is that a few rays of sunshine may finally be breaking through the gloom. Regardless whether you are trying to survive the storm of a recession or be the front-runner in an economic rebound, to be successful you must know to what degree your clients value your services.
According to the April 24, 2009 AIArchitect, although generally weak conditions still prevail at many architecture firms (particularly in the West); fewer firms are reporting declining billings in the last several months. In March, the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) rose to its highest level since August 2008. Growth in inquiries is reportedly the highest in a year.
When the economy in general and the construction industry in particular rebounds and growth returns, will your clients come to you for the services they need? Just as your firm’s survival depends on client loyalty in the worst of economic times, your firm’s growth depends on it during economic recovery. In both cases, your staff must strive to meet client needs to ensure client satisfaction and loyalty. First, they must be aware of the clients’ needs. Then, they must respond to those needs. Lastly and most importantly, the architect or designer must know to what degree the client felt his needs were satisfied. They must ask, act and react.
Now, if there was just a tool that could help do all this… DesignFacilitator’s Feedback Tool was specifically designed to help architects and designers become aware of not only their clients’ needs, but their satisfaction with the designers’ actions in fulfilling those needs. The tool helps you to continuously collect feedback, analyzes it and presents the results in simple understandable reports. See how this simple yet powerful web tool works here.
Posted on May 6th, 2009 View Comments
Regardless of how you collect feedback – almost everyone agrees it is important to do so. Organizing your client feedback efforts into a systematic approach will ensure that you actually get the results you need.
The WickerPark Group, which focuses on client service interviews and client growth programs in the legal industry, authors a great blog, and a recent post highlights some good advice for getting started on a feedback regimen:
The success of client feedback programs requires leadership buy in and top down support. When asking for feedback and opinions from clients, the firm is making a promise that it will respond to the feedback – both good and bad.
Effective feedback doesn’t just happen – like anything else it takes some effort, guided by a purpose, to maximize the potential benefits. When the impetus for improving client relationships through feedback comes from the top, with support down the command chain, the results can be quick and extraordinary.
Each client requires a different service strategy.
This simple statement captures the entire essence of why feedback is critical. Every client is a little bit different – and each person you interact with has his or her own set of personal preferences, needs, cares, concerns, and personalities.
Your process might be great in general, but needs subtle tweaking to maximize the relationship potential for each interaction. Helping your staff understand this, and that feedback during the project is the only way to identify adjustments, will drive use of any feedback systems you put in place.
Is the firm willing to respond to the feedback and take action? How?
This may seem like an obvious question, but the answer will decide your success with a feedback program. Prompt, effective, and helpful follow-up, focused on the client who gave you feedback, will create new opportunities and positive relationships. When those engaging in feedback activities begin to see these results, they will naturally tend to continue collecting feedback.
From the very beginning, start with the end in mind – the goal of getting feedback is to follow-up with a response to the benefit of the client. Start off with great responses, and your feedback program will grow quickly and sustainably.