Posted on June 15th, 2012 View Comments
We’ve been following Koontz-Bryant, P.C. as they use client feedback to improve their business, culture, and overall prosperity. In the fifth installment, Controller Martha Shotwell describes how the firm has been able to use the feedback they have collected.
Koontz-Bryant has been up and running with the Client Feedback Tool for just over a year. We have had some conversations internally about our successes and opportunities for improvement. With a year of feedback behind us, I’d like to share our experience with you.
The most unexpected aspect of the Client Feedback Tool has been its usefulness in our marketing efforts. Focused on retention, we expected to:
- stimulate dialogue with clients;
- identify opportunities for improvement;
- engage staff;
- track staff patterns and improve results;
- create a client-centered culture.
We have used the Client Feedback Tool for these purposes, and I have reported on some of these in previous blog posts. However, at an onsite visit, our DesignFacilitator consultants challenged us to use survey results to promote our firm. They pointed out that with 77% of client responses of “exceeds expectations” or better, we have a great story to tell. We have turned our attention to ways to distinguish ourselves in a soft market.
In addition to promoting our feedback on our website, we are including our survey program as an integral part of our marketing communications. Our company narrative includes a description of our feedback program, following by a glowing testimonial that resulted from a survey. Striving to position ourselves as “client caretakers,” we routinely include client feedback in our RFP responses. Our short-list hit rate has improved by about half in the last six months; much of the increase we attribute to our more client-centric focus generated by the feedback process. Formal presentations to prospective clients close with a discussion of our commitment to listen and act. We present a chart highlighting our results, and we include selected quotes. The surveys have allowed us to assemble a good-sized database of testimonial quotations. A helpful reporting feature allows us to produce a report showing only client comments for specified filters, so we can zero in on the most relevant remarks. Where appropriate, we reinforce our feedback discussions by sending a post-presentation survey to the attendees.
We are having some fun with a new feature of the Client Feedback Tool. At the end of the survey, we can ask “the ultimate question”: How likely are you to refer us to a colleague? On a 10-point scale, answers of 9 or 10 identify individuals who are “promoters” of Koontz-Bryant, compared to low-score “detractors” or those who are “passive.” The software compiles these scores to create a “Net Promoter Score.” So far our score is outstanding, though our sample size is still fairly small.
In addition to identifying our cheerleaders, we are using the “ultimate question” to help make sense of client responses. Since a score of “4” on survey questions corresponds to “Meets Expectations,” numeric responses vary depending on each client’s unique perceptions and expectations. The scores on the specific category-based questions provide actionable feedback for service categories. The “promoter” question can help put the answers in context. For example, a score of 4.0 on responsiveness may be perceived as a good, but neutral, score; and one you might otherwise pay little attention to. However, if the client answers a 10 on the ultimate question, we now know we have a client with very high expectations; indicating just how good that 4.0 score really is.
We look forward to gathering more data for our Net Promoter Score. We are also looking into how we can increase participation and response rates, and will let you know what works in our next blog post.
Posted on June 5th, 2012 View Comments
If you’re like the vast majority of professionals, you know that clearly, the best way to avoid negative feedback is to not get any at all. How could I have missed the obvious for so long. This revelation dawned on me tonight, in one of those eureka moments culled from daily life.
On the way home, with the family out for the night, I stopped at my most-frequented drive-thru chicken restaurant. Once again, they were all out of chicken. This particular establishment is almost always out of some key menu item. I was tipped off when the drive-thru clerk, after hearing I did NOT want to wait 20 minutes for my order to cook, responded she was just waiting for someone to want it before making it. This was her reasoning, even after three of the five cars in line drove off to the competitor down the street.
As a “Client Feedback Professional” I have for years intended to actually call the toll-free feedback line on the receipt to complain. Tonight was the tipping point. As I pulled away from the window with food I didn’t really want, I grabbed my phone only to notice…. The feedback phone number was missing! So was the website. No longer was this restaurant begging for feedback on every receipt, offering ludicrous rewards for doing so. They just stopped asking.
This was the epiphany moment. Of course! How could I have been so misled for so long. The surest way to get rid of client complaints is to just not ask. How could they possibly get negative feedback now? If you are one of the 96% who don’t have a real client feedback plan – you are not alone! Congratulations, you’ve figured this out long before I did and already joined the majority opinion.
But, it gets even better – not getting feedback is so easy. You don’t have to do anything differently than you are now. No need to worry about complaints. No need to worry about guiding a project manager through a tricky client issue. No need to figure out how to steer a project back on track and save that lucrative contract. It’s really that easy.
In fact – doing nothing is very strategic. Guess what – the next time a client has an issue, and is causing a real problem for your team…. They’ll just head down the street and bother your competitor instead! By not getting feedback, not only are you saving yourself the headache of responding to problems early – but you’re going to stick it to your competitors by making them solve the problem! How could I have missed the simple brilliance of that plan? A market strategy of only serving undiscriminating clients who’ll pay for whatever you give them certainly is easier than being strategic and meeting the needs of demanding projects.
Instead, for the last eight years, I’ve been working with firms like yours on some really hard stuff. It’s tricky work to make proactive time-sensitive feedback look easy. It takes real leadership, commitment, and desire to be better if you want to actually improve. It takes a special kind of firm to stay off the heart-disease-in-a-bucket drive-thru chicken and instead eat right and exercise daily. Sure, these firms look great, have amazing cultures, committed clients, and a healthy bottom-line; but at what cost?
Why don’t we all just sit back, tell ourselves we’ll worry about it tomorrow, and hope nothing really bad happens in the meantime. Don’t worry. You’re not alone – you and 96% of your peers are doing the same thing.
Someone want to pass me a chicken wing?
*** UPDATED JUNE 11, 2012 ***
I’ve had several people email me in response to this post with a common question:
If the chicken restaurant is almost always out of some important item, and you’ve been intending to complain for years, why do you still go there?
My response is this: Exactly!
Those asking this question keyed right in on the subtext of the message. Yes indeed – I do continue to frequent this establishment. The overall value proposition is still positive enough for me to return (price, quality, convenience). I also know that, even when what I want is unavailable, other options remain that are still good enough to outweigh the inconvenience of driving a few miles out of my way.
Even though a client keeps coming back, there may be massive room for improvement. In fact, if the consistency of service were to increase, I would very likely speak well of them instead of ill, and also likely tolerate a price hike of my favorite chicken meal (which is, currently, the cheapest in town).
What do you want your firm to be? Are you satisfied with a reputation of being the least inconvenient and cheapest provider of your services? Or do you aspire to more?
What do your clients think? Are you the cheap chicken shack that just happens to be close by? Or are you creating a premium client experience that keeps high margin business coming in the door year after year?
How do you know if you don’t ask?