Posted on June 23rd, 2011 View Comments
Join us as we follow Koontz-Bryant, P.C. as they begin using client feedback to improve their business, culture, and overall prosperity. In the second installment, Martha Shotwell, Controller, describes developing their feedback plan, training their staff and how they got started collecting client feedback. Read Part 1.
When Koontz-Bryant, P.C. decided to embark upon a program to collect regular client feedback, we had some questions about getting started. We knew that with the Client Feedback Tool we could jump in with already-written surveys, and that compilation of results was part of the program. But how would we get buy-in from staff? What was the best way to train? How would we introduce the surveys to our clients? As Mary Poppins tells her young charges, “Well begun is half done.” We felt that our success with the feedback program depended on a good roll-out.
One of the things we liked about the Client Feedback Tool was the implementation assistance that came along with it. As a starting point, DesignFacilitator presented an outline of implementation steps that included consultation, software setup, training, and review. A pre-consultation questionnaire got us thinking about details such as our goals for feedback collection; who would be in charge of implementation; who would request feedback, and how often; who would review results and how results would be used. With Ryan, our DesignFacilitator consultant, we scheduled some webinar meeting dates and got to work.
Two of us at Koontz-Bryant were charged with implementation. Our Controller would be the Firm Administrator and responsible for setup, and our COO would determine when surveys should go out, encourage staff participation, and assure appropriate follow-up. In our initial online consultation, Ryan talked with us about our company and staff structure, and our thoughts based on the pre-consultation questions. He helped us think through the feedback work flow, and shared some examples of what had worked with other firms. Ryan gave us a bit of homework and challenged us to come up with an assignment for the staff who would be using the Client Feedback Tool.
A week later, the real fun began. Our account went live and through an online meeting Ryan stepped us through the setup. He had already inserted our logo, and we selected colors for our firm branding settings. He showed us how to set up firm members and teams. Preference settings allowed us to determine default settings for notifications (what range of low/high scores should trigger an email alert?) and message defaults (messages sent to clients with the surveys). We learned how to use filters to narrow down the 96 pre-defined survey templates, and how to set up clients and projects. Over the next week, we completed setup of firm members and deactivated some of the survey templates.
Our next step was to train the staff. We scheduled a two-hour lunch and learn webinar for all office personnel. Koontz-Bryant management had been impressed with DesignFacilitator’s “Power of Feedback” presentation, so we asked Ryan to present a fair amount of that background material. He then walked staff through the program, guiding them through the steps of requesting feedback, reviewing results, and managing their personal preferences. An open discussion at the end allowed staff to ask questions. At the end of the session, we asked staff to send a survey to someone – client or internal. A few of the staff jumped right in and sent surveys to their coworkers, and a couple of people sent them to clients. However, some employees did not respond.
A few days after the training, we sent a survey to everyone who attended the lunch and learn, using a training template that was already pre-established in the Client Feedback Tool. Everyone had an opportunity to see the process from the client’s perspective. More important, we gathered valuable feedback about our training process. We learned that overall our training met or exceeded expectations, the food was great, and our consultant got high marks for responsiveness and quality of presentation. We also learned that:
- the staff was less interested in the “why” of collecting feedback than in the “how”;
- two hours was a bit too long, even though the first half-hour was lunch; by the time we got to the “how” people were mentally tired;
- most people could not see the details of the software projected on the screen.
For anyone going through the process, our recommendation is to focus more on the “how”, and to find a way to set people up at multiple computers so they can see the screens.
The Client Feedback Tool has a section for tracking followup. We followed up with each person who rated an area low, and recorded this activity in the software.
A few weeks after the training meeting, our president, Greg, met with project managers to establish specific points in a project’s life cycle at which a survey should be sent. To increase our momentum, he also sent initial surveys to a batch of top clients. Results are starting to come in.
In our next update, we look forward to sharing results with you.
Posted on June 13th, 2011 View Comments
We are pleased to announce Client Feedback Tool Version 4.1 has just been released. As the first release following a major version, we have focused on performance and refinement across the board.
- Reporting is 50% – 500% faster
- Schedule recurring surveys (monthly, quarterly, yearly)
- 33 customer-requested enhancements added
- Team creation / management redesigned to be easier
- 17 known defects repaired
We are eager to hear how well the performance enhancements work for you in real-world usage. Please send your comments and feedback to email@example.com and let us know!
Posted on June 6th, 2011 View Comments
Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “change for the better.” Any LEAN organization, at one point or another, will run across this idea. Wikipedia summarizes nicely:
Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work, and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot, eliminating waste in business processes. In all, the process suggests a humanized approach to workers and to increasing productivity: “The idea is to nurture the company’s human resources as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities.” Successful implementation requires “the participation of workers in the improvement.” People at all levels of an organization participate in kaizen, from the CEO down to janitorial staff, as well as external stakeholders when applicable.
Note the incredible focus on everyone in the organization, in a very human way, seeking means to improve. Just as important, Kaizen requires a systematic approach to test and measure efforts. Without a methodical system to monitor results, changes are often a shot in the dark, and real lasting change difficult to obtain.
Service businesses (architects, engineers, lawyers, etc) face even greater challenges realizing incremental improvements. The very nature of a professional service is a customized, solution-oriented approach to each unique project and client. Kaizen comes from manufacturing, where practitioners performed the same function repeatedly. In an assembly line one can easily measure widgets per hour, consistency of widget quality, and cost per widget – each of which monitors how changes to employee efforts affect production output.
Services are rarely so easily repeatable. In fact, the only thing “standard” about a “standard” project is that no project ever matches the standard process. And yet, while services firms may earnestly measure billings, schedule delivery, and quality of deliverables, they very rarely objectively measure the real delivery – client satisfaction.
Professional services, by nature, means we are servants. And while our “master” (the client) requests a product (technical drawing, constructed building, etc), what they really need is our help – our service.
To truly practice kaizen – and realize lasting continuous improvement in your professional services firm – you must measure how well your service delivery met the clients’ expectations. Gathering feedback objectively, consistently, and continuously will give you the real-time data needed to always get better. Employing a system that everyone (from the CEO to the janitor) can use allows everyone to get better.
DesignFacilitator’s Client Feedback Tool is the only tool built exclusively for this purpose in the professional services industry. Contact us to learn how this powerful and easy to use tool can help your “kaizen.” www.designfacilitator.com
Posted on June 1st, 2011 View Comments
You already know feedback helps you build committed, loyal relationships with your clients. While there are many reasons why receiving feedback from your clients produces great results, you may surprised by how powerful just giving feedback can be.
In his well-researched book Influence, Robert B. Cialdini describes six primary behavioral responses influenced by our basic psychology. One powerful predictor of human behavior is the idea of consistency and commitment.
Cialdini demonstrates that our society places great importance on being perceived as consistent. Those who change their stance from a previous stated position are often branded unreliable. Consider a politician who, even if justified, changes his stance on an issue. He’s wishy-washy. Across many vectors of our culture, there is a strong need appear consistent.
The influence of this demand to be consistent often drives behavior. Even if the underlying reasons to act or behave in a specific manner are gone (or contrary to our best interest), the need to be consistent with a previous stated view or behavior is overpowering.
Consumer industries have known about this for years. Many providers of household products have offered prizes for essay contests about their products. Why? Once you make a statement that a given product is great and describe why you like it so much, you now have a strong psychological need to be consistent with that statement going forward. You have unwittingly committed yourself to preferring that brand over any others because buying any other would violate your innate need to be consistent.
Feedback from your clients is just as powerful.
When you solicit feedback and your clients respond – especially in some documented written format – you are changing something deep within their psyche. Their need to be consistent will commit them to their feedback. Their commitment will drive their behavior.
Over 96% of the feedback collected by our system is positive. That means 96% of the time your clients are being influenced to prefer you and your services. When your client needs similar services again, he will be more likely to choose you, just to be consistent with his past statements. When telling others about his experience with you, he will be more likely to say positive things – again, just to be consistent. When his boss asks why your fees are so high, your client contact will defend you and how great you are, and worth every penny – because he’s committed to his statements.
Even if you do nothing with the feedback you collect (though you should do something), the act of giving feedback will create more loyal, committed, consistent clients. Asking for feedback is such an amazingly easy way to dramatically improve your firm.