Client Feedback Tool
  • Blunt Proposal versus Positive Proposal

    Posted on August 13th, 2015 Mike Phillips No comments
    Blunt Proposal versus Positive Proposal

    I know, I’m the guy who’s always talking about why you should track your clients’ perceptions. But here’s a story I think might sound familiar. Its about a mistake we made that is probably too often made by other firms during the creation of a proposal. And, I hope it will help you from making the same mistake.

    Our firm had been building a relationship with a new prospective client for a while. We had spent time with them. We had asked questions to understand what their goals and needs really are. They had shared their concerns and challenges with us and we had guided them through how we collaborate with them to work through the challenges and to achieve their goals. We had stressed how we really cared about helping them. When we were ready to submit our proposal, our firm and the client felt confident we could help them have a positive outcome.

    Besides our submittal, the client wanted to see a proposal from the General Contractor who would work with us. So, we sat down with the General Contractor and went through everything. At the end of the meeting, I felt good about the fact we were all on the same page. They said they understood what was needed. They would be extremely helpful and would help our mutual client achieve their goals. So we asked them to preview their proposal to our client.

    I couldn’t believe it when I saw their proposal.Client Centered Focus

    What they sent us was a long list of prices for services included in the project and a very long list of what was not included. There was nothing about their understanding of the project and how they could help. It basically described the deliverables they would produce, instead of the help they would provide. Clients are hiring us to create deliverables, those are just means to an end. It is the end result they need from us. Instead of telling the client how collaborative they would be, their proposal was all about them and what they would and wouldn’t do.

    I called them and said we needed to talk. We needed to get our proposals better aligned and more focused on the client and their needs. I pulled out our proposal so I could show them what we were looking for the proposals to convey. When I looked at our proposal all I could say was, “I can’t believe it, we made the same mistake!

    It’s so easy to stay in our own heads, to look at our proposal more from our perspective than the client’s. We just do things the way we’ve always done them instead of looking at what we are intending to offer our clients. We don’t mean to. We really care about helping them achieve their goals. Our plan is to be collaborative with them. 

    But how often does the proposal they get from us say just the opposite?

    Communication can get off track with no one meaning for that to happen. That is why I believe it is so important to continue to track our clients’ perceptions over time. 

    Our research shows that the #1 thing clients want from us is an effective relationship. And what that means to them is meaningful communication and responsiveness. I didn’t say frequent communication. I said meaningful. There is a difference. At least from our clients’ perspective.

    Getting too focused on our processes happens to all of us. We get busy. The question is, do our processes let us hear from our clients in a meaningful way? A way to track that our project delivery process works for them? At Phillips, we understand that even though we communicate with our clients regularly, using a process that tracks their perceptions of that process and gives them an easy way to let us know if they would like any changes, is critical because we are so busy.

    I wanted to tell this story on myself because I think it is so important. I suspect something similar has happened to some or all of you as well.

    Download this complimentary webinar “Build Client Loyalty and Avoid Surprises”. In the webinar I’ll share how to identify each of your clients’ hot buttons. And how to tell immediately if they change. It’s easy to ensure you are always meeting or exceeding your clients’ expectations and I need not tell you of the obvious benefits that will have for your firm.

    Mike Phillips AIA, is a national speaker on the topic of building client loyalty through aligning with client perceptions. He has spoken numerous times for PSMJ, Zweig White, ROG, ACEC, and AIA. He has also been published in PSMJ and AEMA journals. Mike has been running a successful architectural firm for more than 30 years. He understands the impact on marketing, staff retention, performance, and profitability when you don’t know what your clients are thinking.

  • ‘Aha!’ Moments (and how they change everything)

    Posted on March 25th, 2015 Ryan Suydam No comments
    'Aha!' Moments (and how they change everything)

    Oh. I bet this guy learned a lesson he’ll never forget.

    Duh learning moment

    It was one of those ‘Aha!’ moments when the light bulb goes on and your thinking and behavior change forever. He’ll never go back to a square wheel again. He’ll never wake up one day and haul a woolly mammoth across the steppes and realize he put the wrong wheel on today.

    Not all learning sticks like that.

    I am bombarded with opportunities to learn. Most of what I learn goes in, and right back out. Some ideas are important enough I capture them as an action item. “Go to the gym” might be one of those. Something important that I want to do, but I have to act upon the item to make the change. Many times, the change never happens. It’s too much work.

    Then I have moments that change the way I think. When I see a situation differently. When I realize I can’t go back and un-know what was learned. More than knowing, this type of moment changes behavior – automatically. These moments don’t happen often, and they are real game-changers.

    I help professional services firms uncover ‘Aha!’ moments with their clients, and within their firms, that allow them to drive greater success and satisfaction just because they know. I reviewed the report below with one of our clients. To help you see the ‘Aha! moment’, let me share information about how to read this data.

    • The scale on the right is used when a clients responds to a feedback request. The scale centers automatically at Met Expectations, driving clients to intentionally move the slider up or down to change the score.
    • The chart on the left, the black bar indicates the average score (by Project Manager). The dark blue represents the scores in the 25% – 75% range. The light blue shows the minimum or maximum scores.

    Duh Moments graphic 2

    When reviewing this chart, I focused on two project managers, Chris and Dan. Both were, at a minimum, meeting their clients’ needs. Most of Chris’ scores were in the Excellent to Exceptional range. Dan’s scores were between Met Expectations and Exceeded Expectations. Some may think that Chris is the better project manager. After all – he’s at the top of the chart! But, when I asked one question, we found an ‘Aha!’ moment.

    “What is the difference in their project profitability?”

    Chris’ projects average 3% profitability. Dan’s average 38%. Chris was chronically over-delivering on his projects and not charging for services out of scope. Dan, on the other hand, has a very clear sense of what his clients’ value and he prices his services accordingly.

    We showed this to Chris. He had an ‘Aha!’ moment. He realized his clients value the work he does for them. He stopped doing things they didn’t care about and started charging appropriately for services out of scope. Understanding what his clients were telling him changed everything.

    The rest of the story…

    When we checked back six months later, Chris’ project profitability had already taken a healthy upturn (up to 18%). And his feedback scores, while lower, still were near the top of the pack.

    One simple ‘Aha!’ moment changed everything for Chris. Not only was he earning his keep with the shareholders, but he felt validated by his clients, and continued to deliver a high-value proposition to them. What an easy win/win/win story.

    Interested in hearing more about stories like Chris’s – and how you can discover your own stories to drive success both within your firm and with your clients?

    Download The Power of Storytelling for Your Firm – a 90-minute Webinar outlining the importance of storytelling, methods for gathering stories, tips for using stories internally to improve staff and culture, and best practices for using stories externally in marketing, business development, and project delivery.

    I’ll wager you have an ‘Aha!’ moment by the end. What are you waiting for?

     

  • Avoid Commoditization – Tell A Story

    Posted on February 24th, 2015 Sally Orcutt No comments
    Avoid Commoditization - Tell A Story

    It’s not what you do – it is the experience you provide.

    When was the last time you attended an industry meeting that did NOT highlight the plight of commoditization?

    Dictionary.com defines the word:  “almost total lack of meaningful differentiation in the goods (or services) provided“.

    So how do you avoid commoditization and differentiate your firm? What can you do to stand out from your peers?

    Beyond all the marketing tricks and branding exercises, real differentiation happens at the experiential level. It’s not what you do for your clients, but rather how you do it.

    We know quality service when we see or feel it. When you share stories about times you received excellent service, do you talk about what they did? Or how it felt? Remembering that excellent hotel stay – you describe it as “inviting” the staff as “friendly” and the bed as “comfortable.” None of these words are objective features – they are subjective experiences you perceived.

    Your clients are people just like you. When they talk about your firm, they are not saying “Wow, ACME Engineering really got the sewer pipes to line up perfectly”. They are saying “Wow, ACME Engineering took really good care of us. They understood why we needed to complete this phase of the project on a fast track and they made it happen. There helped us manage the scope, anticipate challenges, and solve construction problems. They were easy to get hold of and followed up on any questions we had really quickly”.

    There is the ‘meaningful difference’. When you understand the story behind the project, you are more than ‘the firm that put the pipes in the ground’. You are the firm that cared enough to really grasp what was important to your client. You are the firm who took care of them.

    Without understanding the story your clients tell, the project risks becoming internally focused on your goals rather than the client’s goals. With the story, you are a part of the vision, and your client’s goals become your goals. With the story, you are aligned. You are partners.

    Download “The Power of Storytelling for Your Firm”, a 90-minute Webinar from Client Feedback Tool co-founder Ryan Suydam. Ryan outlines the importance of storytelling, methods for gathering stories, tips for using stories internally to improve staff and culture, and best practices for using stories externally in marketing, business development, and project delivery.