Posted on March 16th, 2011 View Comments
Over the coming months, we follow Koontz-Bryant, P.C. as they begin using client feedback to improve their business, culture, and overall prosperity. In this first installment, Martha Shotwell, Controller, shares their history, current situation, and the decision-making process to use feedback as an agent for change.
Koontz-Bryant, P.C. was founded in 1990 to provide surveying and engineering services to the private development sector. We have since expanded clientele to include federal, state and local governments; public and private educators; and commercial, institutional, and industrial clients. Over the years, residential development has been our largest market segment.
Like so many other firms dependent on the building industry, the recession has hit us hard. Most of our developer clients are not starting new projects; some projects have stalled out; and a few clients have gone out of business. State and local governments have their own budget shortfalls. Competition for new projects is fierce. Our gross revenue and headcount are a third of what they were a few years ago. We are glad that we have managed to hold on as we have watched some of our competitors disappear, but austerity measures are taking their toll. Employees have endured pay cuts, reduced hours, and benefits cuts. All of us feel hungry for good news and hopeful for a better year in 2011.
More than ever, we know that it is critical to retain the clients we have.
Koontz-Bryant has long recognized the need to treat clients well. As part of a management study, an outside consultant conducted in-depth client surveys on our behalf. We found that our clients by and large had good things to say about us, and that there were a few areas in which we could improve. Our principals had some productive conversations with some of the respondents and followed up on areas that needed work. We toyed with the idea of doing surveys ourselves and we even sent out about half a dozen, but we never established a sustainable program.
A few years ago we bought a few dozen copies of the book “Selling the Invisible,” and conducted a series of lunch meetings about our relationships with clients. At staff meetings and board retreats, we continued to talk about client service and meeting client expectations. However, we never really determined what those expectations were!
A couple of months ago, Axium (our accounting software provider) invited us to a webinar about collecting client feedback. Within the first half hour, we were totally convinced that regular client feedback – and a constructive method to pass client feedback along to staff – had the potential to transform our client relationships. A key take-away was the realization that we have exhorted staff to serve clients without asking clients what they thought, and that staff are too often shielded from client comments, good or bad. We felt that a well-implemented system to improve communication could help us retain clients and engage staff, which would surely improve our bottom line.
Persuaded that regular client feedback could improve our business, we talked about creating surveys in-house and using internet-based survey services to collect feedback. We brainstormed about the logistics, and debated when and how to share the feedback: who should receive the results, how and when to pass along to staff, and how to compile and track the results. We knew that we could work all these things out ourselves, but we also felt that, short-staffed as we are, it would take a long time to get a self-administered program off the ground. We contacted the folks at DesignFacilitator to learn more about their Client Feedback Tool.
We were impressed with the thoroughness of the Client Feedback Tool, and have decided to give it a try. As consultants ourselves, we see value in having the Client Feedback Tool’s implementation experts help us work through the logistics. COO Bill Hestand said, “I believe we will see some good results right away. Our staff does a good job, and it will be good for them to hear that from our clients. As a manager I look forward to hearing from clients and to the challenge of responding to any negative feedback right away. ”
In a memo to staff announcing this new initiative, Koontz-Bryant President Greg Koontz wrote, “I am quite sure everyone here is aware that Client Satisfaction is one of the key principles that drives our business. I think overall we all do a good job of attending to our clients’ needs and requests, based on our level of repeat business. We have a unique opportunity to take our understanding of this key business principle to another level, giving us a true advantage over our competition. This is a great opportunity for us to strengthen our existing client relationships, and gives us a great story to discuss with new clients!”
We believe that the investment will prove to be a profitable one. As we embark on our feedback initiative utilizing the Client Feedback Tool, we will keep you posted with periodic updates.
Here’s to a great 2011!
Posted on March 11th, 2011 View Comments
LEAN is a production management-based approach to project delivery. As it us used in the AEC industry, it is a method for designing and building capital facilities.
Read the full interview and report: KLMK Group, LEAN and Client Feeedback
Posted on March 4th, 2011 View Comments
Myths, or false beliefs, can lead to misconceptions that produce harmful behaviors, and they are present in all facets of society, including A/E/C firms. They can undermine the credibility of design firms and disrupt industry prosperity.
Mike Phillips, Founder of DesignFacilitator, has identified six prevailing industry myths and begins by debunking the first three in a recent article in the Journal of the Architectural Engineering Management Association. Read the complete “A & E Business” article here:
A&E Business Jan 2011 Cover & Article