Posted on August 31st, 2009 View Comments
Client Feedback Tool subscribers often ask what they can do to get people to respond to feedback requests. In this article, I offer some tips you can use to improve your response rate. In Part I, I addressed what you could do to prepare the recipient before you send the feedback request. In Part II, I will discuss techniques you can apply while creating and following up on the survey.
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 received email
· Reaction to the email subject line
· Perception of the time and effort required to reply
· 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
Sending the Survey
· Pick the right time
You might have looked at the list above and thought, “I cannot control the quantity of email my client receives.” That is true; but you can control when your survey invitation arrives. Consider how much email, especially spam, you receive between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. On a busy Monday morning, is one of your priorities answering feedback requests in your inbox? Our most experienced and successful Client Feedback Tool subscribers confirm that although it is often easiest to send surveys on a Friday afternoon, surveys sent between Monday afternoon and Thursday morning result in significantly higher response rates. We recommend sending surveys about 10 AM local time on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
· Make it stand out
Your survey invitation subject line should be simple and clearly identify that this is important information. One very effective technique is to start the subject line with the name of the project. Few people will trash an unopened email if the subject is one of their projects. The Client Feedback Tool makes this easy for you by automatically inserting the project name into the subject line of the survey invitation.
· Make it personal
By default, The Client Feedback Tool’s survey invitation email states that the feedback is important. Of course, this cannot match the sincerity of a short personal statement from you explaining why the recipient’s feedback is important to you— that it really does matter. You might also mention that the survey only takes about two minutes to complete.
· If the recipient does not reply
There are many reasons why a recipient may not initially reply. Misdirected mail, time constraints, forgetfulness, apprehension, the list goes on. What can you do about it? Follow Up! Let him know that his feedback really is important. Call or email him; or send him a reminder through the Client Feedback Tool. Chances are that after the first time, he will realize that his feedback really is an important part of your process.
· If the recipient does reply
Ironically, the correct action if the recipient does reply is the same as above— Follow Up! Let him know that you appreciate his response. If his response identified an issue or concern, that is OK— you have learned how to improve your process and his perception of it. If the response praised your efforts, thank him for the feedback. In either case, you have reinforced to the recipient just how important the feedback was to you.
We all understand that an open, bidirectional flow of information is in your best interest and that of your clients. The Client Feedback Tool is an essential conduit through which that information flows. In order to enjoy the most successful exchange of information through that conduit, consider employing the tips we presented:
Prepare your recipient. Before you send the survey, explain to him it that it will help you help him.
Send your feedback invitation mid-week. Use the project name in the subject line. Add a personal note.
Always follow up! This reinforces your sincerity, increases the likelihood of future responses, and most importantly, it helps you become his most understanding service provider.
Posted on August 25th, 2009 View Comments
Those that know me, know about my obsession with the game of baseball. While I was always a lousy player as a kid, I decided to try again, two decades removed from playing my last game in Little League.
I found that my fear of the ball has not magically grown out of me. Stationed at second base for the first time in my life, ground balls hit my way really throw me for a loop. While I know intellectually that I should keep my eye on the ball, watch it into the glove, and then catch it cleanly; instead I flinch – afraid of taking a ball in the face.
Saturday, at practice, I flinched yet again, and took a screamer off the knee. I learned this weekend that catching a ball with the kneecap is much more painful than catching it in the glove. So, in thinking to myself about this experience, I realized I have a behavioral tendency to flinch when the ball is hit sharply in my direction. That (very natural) tendency leads to failure, pain, and embarrassment. The only way to change the RESULT is to change the TENDENCY that causes it. In short, I need to practice, practice, practice until I no longer flinch and instead confidently and smoothly field the ball naturally and without thought.
Now let’s get off the ball field (thanks for going along though) and think about your behavioral tendencies when dealing with criticism from a client. What is your initial reaction? Do you flinch? Does it hurt? Do you get defensive and try to justify your actions? Passive aggression? Cry? Whatever your reaction is – it’s just that – a natural tendency to respond in a predisposed way.
Look back at the results of your tendencies. Does your typical reaction really get you the results you want? What most people want is ultimately to have strong healthy relationships with the people around them – both personally and professionally. In the business world, effective relationships with your clients are the key to prosperity. Even the most talented designer will sometimes deliver a design that doesn’t suit the client’s taste or specific needs. Is your reaction to feedback negative, so that the client is afraid to criticize your work? What do you think will happen if your client can’t openly express his needs, preferences, and expectations – don’t you think he’ll look for another designer he can talk to?
It doesn’t matter what kind of work you do for your clients – if they don’t feel able to tell you what they need – and when you missed the ball – you will lose clients.
The good news is there is a cure! Just like me on the ball field, you need to practice. Start asking for feedback frequently. Realize that is it just information – a tool for you to use to get the results you ultimately want. It’s not personal – it doesn’t have to hurt or be scary – it’s just information. Keep asking for feedback using a comfortable method (like our Client Feedback Tool) that gives you some time and distance to process and measure your reaction. Over time, with practice and experience, you can make receiving feedback – even the critical type – an easy and natural process; and your response – your behavioral tendency – can be positive, open, and engender even more communication with your clients.
When clients realize that you are open for discussion, and that you respond to their concerns positively, you will build amazing relationships that will last for years. When these clients keep coming back for more work, and refer peers to you, you can realize sustained growth and real, lasting prosperity.
Posted on August 20th, 2009 View Comments
How often do you meet your clients’ expectations? Or perhaps more importantly, how often to you fall short of their expectations?
DesignFacilitator has been helping subscribers exceed their clients’ expectations since 2004. Even so, a recent strategic partnership with PSMJ Resources, Inc. has provided an entirely new look at how firms measure up to clients’ expectations.
Typically, a DesignFacilitator subscriber uses the Client Feedback Tool on an ongoing basis, regularly requesting feedback from his firm’s clients. These subscribers belong to firms whose philosophies include a commitment to collecting feedback; and they use the Client Feedback Tool to enhance their relationships and delivery of services. In the last two years, looking across all data collected, these firms have received scores below “Met Expectations” only three percent of the time. We see then, that engaging clients to find out what they really want from you allows firms to best meet their clients’ needs. These firms ultimately keep more of their clients, and build the healthiest, most prosperous relationships.
Unfortunately, many of you have not yet realized the prosperity and satisfaction resulting from client feedback collection. DesignFacilitator has collaborated with PSMJ Resources to offer you a unique opportunity to gather client feedback. Simply participate in PSMJ’s Premier Award for Client Satisfaction Award, and you can send a one-time feedback survey to as many as 40 clients. This simple, cost effective process can actually pay for itself— but more on that later. The data collection period ends October 30, 2009. DesignFacilitator will then compile the data and PSMJ will present awards to those firms that have demonstrated the greatest success from their clients’ perspective.
Although the Premier Award participation period is still open, early results have already provided significant findings. Notably, firms that have no history of regular feedback collection receive “Below Expectations” ratings over ten percent of the time! This is more than three times higher than firms who use feedback on a regular basis!
What this reveals is that most firms do not know what their clients need and expect. Moreover, the only way to correct that blind spot is to ASK for feedback as soon as possible – before your clients become someone else’s clients. Additionally, collecting feedback does far more than just increase the health of your professional relationships and keep you aware of your clients’ expectations. It also reduces liability risk, staff turnover, and burned-out project managers. In fact, DesignFacilitator has worked with professional liability insurers who determined that feedback collection is so important that they provide 10% premium credits to firms who consistently collect it. Often these savings alone more than pay for the cost of the Client Feedback Tool.
The quickest way to get client feedback is to sign up for PSMJ’s Premier Award right away. Through the end of the year, firms that buy the $495 Premier Award package from PSMJ receive a full credit towards a one-year Client Feedback Tool subscription with DesignFacilitator. With the combination of these two services, you will quickly understand where you stand with 40 of your most trusted clients and how your client satisfaction measures up to the profession overall. You will even be able to collect feedback for the next 12 months from all your clients, partners, consultants, vendors, and anyone else whose relationship you value.
Do not wait. The numbers are in. Ten percent of your clients may be considering taking their business elsewhere. Can you afford to lose them?
Visit http://www.psmj.com/surveys/products.aspx?v=item&i=1443 or contact DesignFacilitator at 866-4-DES-FAC for more information.
Posted on August 7th, 2009 View Comments
Surely you’ve taken a survey at some point in life with the feedback scale everyone seems to love. It goes something like this:
Please rate my performance:
- Very Dissatisfied
- Very Satisfied
You’ve also seen variations (Very Poor/Poor/Neutral/Good/Very Good). It seems that this scale is what everyone uses. But why? When we started our Client Feedback Tool back in 2004, we figured someone much smarter than us must have devised that system, so we used it too. We quickly discovered why NOT to use such a scoring method.
In our first year, 96% of the feedback we collected arrived at the top level. While this sounds like a good thing – you then must remember that the purpose of feedback is improvement. If your answer scale eliminates any room for improvement 96% of the time, you will never be able to fine-tune or tweak your processes.
Further, the tone of the words used is rather uncomfortable. The scale sets up a pass/fail scenario, and most people feel uncomfortable giving a score less than “Very Satisfied.” Likewise, receiving feedback on the mid-range feels merely mediocre. People giving feedback then tend to give higher scores than they would otherwise, just to avoid confrontation and/or hurt feelings. Rather than a bell-curve distribution of scores, we saw a small cluster of “Very Dissatisfied” responses, a huge quantity of “Very Satisfied” responses, and very little in between. Yes/No questions reveal the same problems.
Also, the scale says nothing about your clients‘ perspective and their perceived value of what was delivered. Every good or service consumed is measured against a perceived value gained. If you aren’t measuring against that value, the measurement is inherently inaccurate. I may not be very satisfied with the quality of a $3 fast-food burger, but I still chose to order it, and will do so again. Likewise, I may get the best steak ever at a classy restaurant – but never go back. Why? It all comes down to understanding my value expectations. (more…)
Posted on August 6th, 2009 View Comments
DesignFacilitator’s Client Feedback Tool continues to be improved and enhanced. We recently released several new features including:
- Send On Behalf – You can designate firm members as having the ability to “Send On Behalf” which allows someone to send surveys as though they came from another person. For instance, an assistant could send surveys on behalf of a project manager. In this case, the recipient would see the survey as though it came from the project manager.
- Reminders to Send Surveys – firm and team managers can now schedule reminders for their staff if they haven’t sent a survey within the timeframe specified. This will help encourage more people to collect feedback regularly.
- Intelligent Alerts – now, if one response on a survey is very much unlike the others, you can be notified. For example, if the numeric value of all your scores is 7,7,7,7,5,7,7 – even though they are all “high” scores on our 1-7 score range, the “5″ in that sequence is lower than the other scores, and may indicate an area needing attention. You can now be alerted automatically when a situation like this occurs.
- Scheduled Reports – You can schedule certain reports to be delivered to you via email automatically. Set this in your “Set Preferences” page.