Posted on September 29th, 2010 View Comments
Do you ever wish for an easy way to be better than the competition? How about an ethical way to “cheat” your way to being the best?
I had a great conversation about client feedback with Lee Frederiksen, Managing Partner at Hinge Marketing. Lee is a behavioral psychologist by education, and has helped many architects, engineers, and other professional services firms engage their clients to build their brand and markets. During our conversation, he was reminded of a story where one group within an organization was accused of “cheating” because they kept winning performance awards. You can read the whole story on Hinge’s Blog. I’ve excerpted below:
As it turns out, [the winning group] had simply adopted the practice of handing out a rating form each time they performed a service and encouraging the recipient to fill it out. This simple practice had an amazing effect. It turned an intermittent system of feedback into one that provided almost continuous feedback to the professional providing the support. In short, they knew that each interaction counted. They suddenly became more “helpful” and it showed in their evaluation ratings.
What happened is a typical result of what we’ve seen with our clients who deploy our Client Feedback Tool within their organization. By engaging everyone in the process of collecting feedback, everyone becomes more aware of their performance – knowing it will be measured. By collecting feedback from clients during projects (not just after they’re done), those doing the work naturally begin to perform better for clients.
Feedback works to change performance. Decades of well-controlled behavioral research clearly shows that it does so under the right conditions. For example, feedback has to be frequent, timely, and objective.
So, how do you “cheat” and become better than your competitors in an unfair way? It’s really pretty easy. Collect feedback when you can do something about it (i.e., before the project is over). Get feedback as soon as you’ve just performed some work, while memory of it is fresh. Ask questions that are specific and focused on what was just delivered. Most importantly, have the people doing the work ask for the feedback! This is the quickest way to assure each person working for your clients is focused on the clients’ needs, and aware of his performance.
When you have an entire firm of client-focused professionals, working to meet each client’s specific needs, there will be no contest between you and the competition.
Posted on September 28th, 2010 View Comments
The Best Firms to Work for Summit, presented by CE News, Structural Engineering & Design, The Zweig HR Letter and the Environmental Business Journal, is today, September 28 and Wednesday, September 29 at the Palazzo in Las Vegas. This two-day conference will explore topics such as retaining top talent in tough times, workforce planning in an economic downturn, firm cultures that motivate and inspire commitment, retooling your current workforce, diversification strategies, staffing and cash flow, managing overhead, training and workforce development, benefits integration, legal issues, and best practices, as well as provide unlimited networking opportunities for all involved in the business of architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting.
If you’re attending this event, please join Mike Phillips for his 4:00pm session today: Improve Your Firm by Improving Your Value to Clients or stop by the Client Feedback Tool Sponsorship table and say hello.
For more information on the event visit http://www.bestfirmstoworkfor.com/index.html.
Posted on September 23rd, 2010 View Comments
DesignFacilitator’s Mike Phillips will be moderating today’s 2:30 Panel discussion
“Keeping Your Clients Happy and Loyal.”
Conference attendees can also visit the Client Feedback Tool table to learn more about the 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 13 performance benchmarks that measure business operations in terms of profitability, growth, cash flow, overhead control, business development, project performance, and employee satisfaction.
For more information on PSMJ, and their Circle of Excellence Awards and Conference visit PSMJ Resources, Inc.
Posted on September 18th, 2010 View Comments
I recently accompanied an architect on a visit to a renovation project, to meet with his client. As we walked around the building discussing options for what do, the architect stopped and picked up a gum wrapper – without a hitch in the conversation. As we walked past the next trash receptacle, he threw the wrapper away. Later, on the other side of the building, he did the same thing with a cigarette butt.
The architect never said anything or made a show of what he did. Just very subtly “cleaned up” when he saw something needing attention. At the time, I didn’t really think anything of it.
Later, he gathered feedback from the client using our Client Feedback Tool, and one of the comments said this:
Thanks for taking care of my building. You even stopped to pick up trash. That’s not what I am hiring you to do, but it showed me you really care. Thanks for going the extra mile, and looking for ways to make the project better.
When I talked to the architect later about this feedback, he shared: ”That’s why I do these things. I always look for ways to improve what my clients hire me to work on. Even things that aren’t in my scope of work – if I can identify an area where I can help, it creates more value. It helps me become my client’s expert.”
You may be doing a dozen little extra things for your clients that you aren’t even aware of how much value they bring. How do you identify which pack the most punch? As you think of new ways to help and add value, are you measuring the results to confirm the extra efforts are creating additional success?
Start looking for ways to help – even little ones – then ask for feedback. You may be amazed at the results, and the added value you create with your clients.
Posted on September 1st, 2010 View Comments
One of my guilty pleasures is making sure I catch Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon every morning. Today’s is genius (at least, for those of us in the business of feedback). In three panes, Adams succinctly captures the challenges and pitfalls of so many efforts to collect feedback.
Anonymous surveys that collect demographic or statistical information can be very useful. However, surveys collecting feedback – particularly when that feedback about a service – are challenged greatly when attempted anonymously.
Fundamentally, the goal of collecting feedback is to understand his unique preferences and adjust your processes to fit his style accordingly. Feedback of this nature is inherently personal and unique. Providing a service (whether it be managing employees like the Pointy Haired Boss, or providing engineering expertise to a client) is not just a technical proposition. Services are provided by people to people. And since we’re all different and have individual preferences and approaches, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology.
Understanding this concept unveils the first challenge of anonymous feedback. When no name is attached to the feedback, it can’t directly benefit the respondent. When you receive anonymous feedback, and 99 out of 100 people love the way you do something, how much effect does the one dissenter have on your approach? You aren’t going to change everything for one person. However, if you knew who that one person was, you could adjust the process just for him (assuming it made business sense to do so).
Secondly, anonymous feedback demonstrates real challenges with trust. The respondent can’t trust you to actually do anything about the feedback given (because, after all, you don’t know who gave it). Or, he doesn’t trust the actual anonymity of the feedback. With all the tracking and tricks of technology today, how often do you really believe your anonymous feedback is truly a secret? Worse, what if you ask for feedback anonymously, and (without trying to) you figure out who gave challenging information. Now, you really want to respond, and fix the problem – but doing so is going to violate the “trust” you offered the client by offering an anonymous survey in the first place.
But what about the good anonymity provides? Won’t my clients be more honest?
Actually, you can get great, honest feedback, and get more of it – if the right person asks the right questions – to the right person at the right time. Therein lies the challenge of building a great feedback process. The most important aspect of collecting feedback from clients is to be sure the feedback is about the client – not about you. If you collect feedback in a manner that unveils the client’s preferences, and you respond by specifically helping the client more according to his expectations, trust is created. When you prove to the client that feedback matters, and that you act upon it, there is no need for anonymity to get honest feedback.
That is the paradigm where the healthiest relationships are developed and were lasting client loyalty is built.