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 May 7th, 2009 View Comments
We all know that good news regarding the business economy has been scarce in the past couple years. Architecture firms have certainly not been spared the downward spiral. In January of this year, the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropped to the lowest level in history. The good news is that a few rays of sunshine may finally be breaking through the gloom. Regardless whether you are trying to survive the storm of a recession or be the front-runner in an economic rebound, to be successful you must know to what degree your clients value your services.
According to the April 24, 2009 AIArchitect, although generally weak conditions still prevail at many architecture firms (particularly in the West); fewer firms are reporting declining billings in the last several months. In March, the AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) rose to its highest level since August 2008. Growth in inquiries is reportedly the highest in a year.
When the economy in general and the construction industry in particular rebounds and growth returns, will your clients come to you for the services they need? Just as your firm’s survival depends on client loyalty in the worst of economic times, your firm’s growth depends on it during economic recovery. In both cases, your staff must strive to meet client needs to ensure client satisfaction and loyalty. First, they must be aware of the clients’ needs. Then, they must respond to those needs. Lastly and most importantly, the architect or designer must know to what degree the client felt his needs were satisfied. They must ask, act and react.
Now, if there was just a tool that could help do all this… DesignFacilitator’s Feedback Tool was specifically designed to help architects and designers become aware of not only their clients’ needs, but their satisfaction with the designers’ actions in fulfilling those needs. The tool helps you to continuously collect feedback, analyzes it and presents the results in simple understandable reports. See how this simple yet powerful web tool works here.
Posted on May 6th, 2009 View Comments
Regardless of how you collect feedback – almost everyone agrees it is important to do so. Organizing your client feedback efforts into a systematic approach will ensure that you actually get the results you need.
The WickerPark Group, which focuses on client service interviews and client growth programs in the legal industry, authors a great blog, and a recent post highlights some good advice for getting started on a feedback regimen:
The success of client feedback programs requires leadership buy in and top down support. When asking for feedback and opinions from clients, the firm is making a promise that it will respond to the feedback – both good and bad.
Effective feedback doesn’t just happen – like anything else it takes some effort, guided by a purpose, to maximize the potential benefits. When the impetus for improving client relationships through feedback comes from the top, with support down the command chain, the results can be quick and extraordinary.
Each client requires a different service strategy.
This simple statement captures the entire essence of why feedback is critical. Every client is a little bit different – and each person you interact with has his or her own set of personal preferences, needs, cares, concerns, and personalities.
Your process might be great in general, but needs subtle tweaking to maximize the relationship potential for each interaction. Helping your staff understand this, and that feedback during the project is the only way to identify adjustments, will drive use of any feedback systems you put in place.
Is the firm willing to respond to the feedback and take action? How?
This may seem like an obvious question, but the answer will decide your success with a feedback program. Prompt, effective, and helpful follow-up, focused on the client who gave you feedback, will create new opportunities and positive relationships. When those engaging in feedback activities begin to see these results, they will naturally tend to continue collecting feedback.
From the very beginning, start with the end in mind – the goal of getting feedback is to follow-up with a response to the benefit of the client. Start off with great responses, and your feedback program will grow quickly and sustainably.
Posted on February 26th, 2009 View Comments
DesignFacilitator’s Client Feedback Tool uses many of the premises described by the Johari Window. The Johari Window describes two axis of feedback:
- Asking for Feedback (Horizontal)
- Giving Feedback (Vertical)
In brief, the health of your relationship with someone (a client for example) can be measured by the SIZE of your “arena” (see the diagram). The more you ask for feedback, the more awareness you develop about yourself – reducing your blind spot and increasing your arena (the vertical line moves to the right). Likewise, the more feedback you provide, the smaller your facade, and again, the bigger your arena (the horizontal line moves down).
Using a feedback system like DesignFacilitator to constantly ask for feedback from clients will increase the health of your client relationships. When you know what your clients think and feel about your project processes, you have eliminated your blind spot. Being aware of your relationships’ quality allows you to make intelligent, informed business decisions (such as when a client will be amenable to a fee increase).
Likewise, building a healthy system of communication by asking for feedback frequently will enable you to give feedback to your clients as well. With an open feedback loop, you can both guide and tweak each others’ processes to create better performing projects for everyone.