Posted on June 30th, 2009 View Comments
I had an interesting conversation this morning, arriving at work and walking into the break room for my morning caffeine. Some coworkers were discussing injustices from early in life (playground bullying, unfair parental punishment, etc). Even those these events were trivial, and took place three decades ago, the memory (and emotion) has stuck around through the years.
What causes “unfair” experiences to remain so powerful in our experience? I’m no psychologist, so I won’t try to answer that question. However, it’s important to be aware that memories of unfairness and injustice last a long time. It’s even more important to understand the behavioral effects on those who feel they were treated unfairly.
Economists and psychologists have studied a phenomenon called “strong reciprocity,” classically observed in “The Ultimate Game.” In this game, two strangers are brought together. Stranger A is given a sum of money , and instructed to divide it however he sees fit between them. Stranger B can accept the money, or reject it. If Stranger B rejects the money, Stranger A loses his money as well.
In a purely rational sense, if Stranger A starts with $100 and keeps $99 (giving $1 to Stranger B), Stranger B should still accept the offer – after all, $1 is more than he had to start with. However, since this isn’t perceived as “fair” Stranger B will almost always reject that offer, costing both players any winnings. In fact, any time Stranger A attempts to keep more than 1/2 of the money, Stranger B becomes increasingly likely to reject the offer, to the point that over half of observed real-world subjects rejected offers where the balance exceeded 70/30.
According to James Surowiecki at the New Yorker:
“Essentially, people are willing to pay to punish those they think are free-riding or acting unfairly, even when doing so brings them no material benefits.”
Even though in EVERY case both parties win, the feeling of injustice causes the majority of people to cause a lose-lose outcome when the scales are balanced too far in someone else’s favor. Unfortunately, the same ineffective behavior is seen professionally.
In delivering a service (for a fee), the client expects a certain value. That value is based on their perception of how effectively the service was performed, and how well the service fulfilled a need. At times, the balance of perceived value between cost of the service and the actual service delivered shifts too far in favor of the service provider. When this happens, strong reciprocity by your client (where he will take a loss to penalize you for being unfair) can unmake the profits from your job - and even become punitive to a broader degree. Usually, this behavior isn’t even malicious in intent, but rather a natural behavioral response to a perceived injustice.
John Timmer at Ars Technica says this:
“Within this perspective, the snap judgment is that an offer is unfair. Sometimes, we can engage the post-hoc rationalization, in this case involving the economics of the situation, and override our ethical calculations. But, in a substantial fraction of the cases, we never get the chance, as we act on our snap decisions before that process can occur.”
Basically, as soon as a situation is perceived as unfair, unjust, or in some other way disadvantageous, the natural and immediate tendency is to reciprocate an injustice with injustice. This is why feedback is so critical to get early in any service relationship. As soon as a client perceives the balance of value going too far in favor of the provider, he has the opportunity to make his feelings known. Whether his perceptions are valid will be for you to decide – but being aware of the imbalance lets you adjust, react, and manage the situation towards a win-win. Without this crucial information, you may find yourself with a client committing resources and increasing his losses simply to make sure you feel the pain too. Whether this pain is an unpaid invoice, loss of a client, or even a liability claim, it’s often too late to find the win-win.
Remember that kid in 2nd grade that ate two cupcakes at the school party, so you got none? People don’t forget an injustice, and your clients won’t either. A client lost tends to stay lost, forever skewed against you and your organization.
Ultimately, no one wants to lose. Ask for feedback early and often, adjust when needed to foster a fair outcome, and win-win outcomes are virtually assured.
Posted on June 29th, 2009 View Comments
On June 28th, 2009 over 50 new features, enhancements, and fixes were released to our Client Feedback Tool. All subscribers have immediate access to the following features, and more:
- You can now schedule batches of reports to be generated and delivered to you via email, automatically. Look for this in the “Set Preferences” page.
- Survey recipients can now reply on a mobile device, including iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and more.
- The Bar Graph report was enhanced, offering a variety of new charting options. You can now create a bar graph by Project, Project Type, Project Team, Phase, Category, Question, Sender, Sender Team, Respondent, Company, Client, or Company Type.
- When sending a survey, you can select a project from a project list, rather than perform a search.
- You can now leave a follow-up comment to any feedback request, even if no one has responded to the survey. This allows you to log why a survey remains unanswered, or to summarize an off-line conversation that replaced the survey.
- The answers report can now be printed “anonymously” – so you can print results and share them with others without revealing who gave the feedback.
- Downloadable batch reports have a new, enhanced date selector simplifying use.
For questions or help with any of these features, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-4-DES-FAC.
Likewise, if you have any features YOU want added, please let us know!
Posted on June 18th, 2009 View Comments
DesignFacilitator subscribers often ask what they can do to get people to respond to feedback requests. Many factors affect the likelihood of a recipient responding to your feedback requests. The factors include, but are not limited to, the recipient’s
- Quantity of email in the inboxes
- Email service and manager’s spam settings
- Reaction to the email’s subject line
- Perception of the time and effort required to reply
- Discomfort answering questions they may think are about you personally
- Perceived benefits of answering your request (Will it really make a difference?)
- Ability to remember to complete the survey later if it cannot be finished now
In this article, I will offer some tips you can use to improve your response rate. First, I will address what you can do before you send the feedback request. In Part II, I will discuss principles you can apply while creating and following up on the survey.
Prepare the Recipient
Your client comes in Monday morning and the phone is already ringing. She answers the phone and pulls up her emails. Twelve new emails and another 23 in the junk mail (possible spam). She quickly scans the spam and almost instinctively asks: Does it appear safe? Did I expect it? Does it have a believable benefit? Do I want to see this? If the answer to any question is “No”, she deletes the message.
What if one of those discarded emails was your feedback request? To prevent your survey from winding up in the Trash folder, talk to your recipient before sending the request!
- Regardless whether you talk face-to-face, by telephone or via email; preparation or ‘pre-notification’ is critical. Use whichever format you desire, but be sure to let them know the survey is coming. That way, even if it was misdirected to their junk mail box, they will recognize it as valid business mail.
- People are often just as uncomfortable giving personal feedback as they are asking for it. That is why DesignFacilitator’s surveys are about your process, not about you. Explain this to your recipient ahead of time to help ease any apprehension he may have about telling you about you.
- Your recipient may have experienced surveys that branched to more questions, or said they contained five questions and in actuality, each question contained multiple questions. DesignFacilitator’s surveys typically take 2 – 3 minutes to answer. They do not ‘branch’ to additional questions. A question is one question, period. Your recipient will always know the number of questions up-front.
- You might explain that this is NOT a sampling survey sent to thousands of people. It is a specific request to evaluate the services you provided to that person so that you can fine-tune your process to best satisfy his needs. Although you cannot pay for his response or offer a chance to win $5,000, the incentive you offer is even more valuable: a designer or consultant whose process is tailored to the client’s needs.
In Part II, we will discuss concepts and actions you can apply while sending and following up on the feedback request.
Posted on June 11th, 2009 View Comments
We are pleased to announce that over 80 new features, enhancements, and fixes have been released to our online Client Feedback Tool. Some key new features include:
- Reports now include your branding / logo when printing
- New report that highlights high scores to more easily identify your successes
- New report that gathers all written feedback comments, to collect testamonials for marketing
- Optimized report printing process to make 50% faster
- Added an address book feature, to more easily select survey recipients
- Added a “contact import” feature to quickly import a list of survey recipients
- Added a new “Bar Graph” report, offering a visually rich display of your feedback
Posted on June 9th, 2009 View Comments
The A&E Business Journal, published by the AE Management Association, featured an article on Client Feedback in their May 2009 issue entitled “Using Client Feedback to Address the Five Biggest Problems for Design Firms,” written by Mike Phillips AIA. In the article Phillips discusses how to collect actionable data from your clients and how to use this information to reduce problems and liability, increase profitability, improve team performance, and enhance marketing effectiveness. Here he discusses how collecting feedback in design firms can be especially challenging.
Design firms tend to solve unique problems in unique ways, which brings a focus on developing a deeper understanding of the specific details of our clients’ problems, preferences and priorities. Not only is this success criteria elaborate, but it is different for each project and often mutates multiple times during a single project due to shifts in budget, schedule and a client’s sense of desired quality. Design firms which utilize a system for tracking and responding to these changes waste less time and creates the maximum value to their client by being better aligned with their needs.
To read the entire article, subscribe to A&E Business Journal. The AE Management Association is offering a FREE 2009 AEMA Salary Survey with an AEMA membership of $125.00 for those who sign up by June 30, 2009.
Mike Phillips is President and Founder of Phillips Architecture and DesignFacilitator. His personal website can be found at AboutMikePhillips.com.