Client Feedback Tool
  • How Can I Turn my Project Managers Into Business Developers?

    Posted on January 28th, 2015 Ryan Suydam No comments
    How Can I Turn my Project Managers Into Business Developers?

    What an age old question. How do we create an organizational mindset among technical staff to be business developers? How do we support them, and hold them accountable? Tough questions no doubt – but a solution may be easier than you think.

    In a professional SERVICES company, the service you provide – the experience your clients have – is your brand. There is no better marketing and selling activity than taking great care of clients. If you’re like most of the industry, 85% or more of your work is from repeat clients.

    Managing expectations (asking for feedback) is a logical starting point. Anyone can do it (yes, even an engineer!). We started our company out of an architecture firm, and designed our processes and tools specifically for project managers. No one has more influence over client retention than the front-line staff. When project managers ask the right questions, at the right times, and take action on the information – each client feels valued and important.

    More critically, each client will recognize the project manager as his expert. When a client latches onto one of your PM’s as the expert, the client is much more likely to tell others about what a great expert he has. After all, the client helped create that expert by giving feedback. Word gets around, and suddenly people are asking how they can get access to the expert. Your project managers become business developers without even trying.

    Some people are never going to go out and use traditional “sales” techniques to find and develop new relationships. The “become an expert” approach not only makes these often introverted technical people feel great about their work, but it’s a natural way for them to develop existing and new business based on relationship and referrals.

    Consider this scenario:

    One of your strongest project managers has been working with a great client for a couple years. They know each other well, the work is going smoothly, and there’s no sign of trouble. Momentum keeps the relationship going with little investment, and everyone is complacent about the status quo.

    Now, introduce a dose of feedback. With a Client Feedback Tool survey, the project managers asks the client how an active project is progressing. The client responds, and raves about the work. We knew they would – it’s a good relationship. We confirmed our assumptions. But… we now have evidence that we are creating real value.

    As soon as the client responds, the response is sent to the project manager. Based on the positive results, the project manager, who would have no other “reason” to call the client, can do so. He’s following-up to thank the client for the feedback; he acknowledges that he also finds the relationship positive and valuable. And while they’re talking about successes, the project manager naturally asks the question: “Do you know anyone else we could help like this?”

    Seeking out new business opportunities is no longer an awkward call that a project manager dreads.  It’s a natural extension to an easy and positive conversation. And it comes with a built in recommendation!

    The objective of any feedback program, especially one powered primarily through electronic methods, is to initiate conversations with clients. When a client responds, don’t delay – follow-up and keep a conversation going. Celebrate successes or address challenges right away. Use the phone, meetings, and other existing communication tools to do so. When a client doesn’t respond, follow-up! Use that as a great opportunity to check in and verify they got the feedback request, and assure everything is going well.

    For many of us, starting the conversation is the hardest part. And starting conversations is really what business development is.

    How do you make project managers better business developers? Give them an easy process to start the conversations, and the insights they need to do a great job for their clients.

    You’ll have better clients (and more of them), happier project managers, and a better firm because of it.

  • What is your ‘best project’ story?

    Posted on August 13th, 2014 Darren Smith No comments
    What is your 'best project' story?

    I had been working with the leaders of this firm for several months on the benefits of collaboration on project schedule, budget, and team satisfaction. We had shared ‘best project’ stories and agreed those were the projects where everything went smoothly and all members of the team just seemed to do what needed to be done to create a positive outcome. They wanted to create ‘best project stories’ on all their projects so they asked team members working on one of their large projects this question. 

    “How would you rate the overall collaboration on your team?”

    They found that almost 50% of those responding said the team’s collaboration was about what they expected. It met their expectations. Another roughly 19% exceeded expectations. Good news.

    But the leaders focused in on the top 27%. They wanted to understand what about the experience for these individuals had them rate the team’s collaboration as “Exceptional” or “Excellent”? For these team members, this was one of the ‘best project stories’. The leaders wanted to understand the behavior, quantify it (if possible), and spread it around like peanut butter to the other members of their project teams.Collaboration

    I worked with the leaders to dig deeper. They spoke with team members to better understand what, for them, made the project feel more collaborative than they expected. When we pulled together the information, we recognized the team had set up Rules of Engagement. Of course, they didn’t use that label, but their discussions and actions had the same impact. They managed their team interactions effectively and efficiently and created a positive experience for the team overall.

    So what did they do, and how can you (and they) spread these behaviors around?

    Rules of Engagement are the operational and relational rules that create ‘best project’ stories. Although oversimplified, the difference between the two are that operational rules provide team accountability and relational rules provide team strength.

    Behind operational rules is the idea that for a project to run smoothly rules must be established? How will communication be handled, deadlines be met, and deliverables reviewed. What are the rewards for the individual of adhering to those rules? What are the consequences if they do not? Think about a project that ran over budget (or schedule), did it have operational rules in place? Was there a breakdown in any of the rules? Were there consequences to the individual(s) involved?

    Relational rules serve a different purpose. Getting the relational rules right means identifying the skills and talents needed to make your project run smoothly (and profitably)? Then, take that knowledge and put together the strongest possible team of individuals you can. And, for those of you with multiple office locations, don’t forget that the skills and talents you need may not be sitting right in front of you. Be sure the person’s role on the team will allow them to use their talents. If your project is complex, it is not only a good idea to have someone whose talents include organization on the team, they must serve in a role where they can bring that expertise to the project.

    Learn more about using Rules of Engagement on your next project. Click here to download a 50-minute webinar that will increase the likelihood that all of your projects will run smoothly (and more profitably).

    Darren Smith (founder and CEO of CIMA Strategic) is a collaboration subject matter expert. He helps successful executives in design, construction, and healthcare elevate their leadership and energize their strategy & business development implementation through collaboration. Darren has conducted business in 20 countries across 10 industries. His clients include HKS Architects, The Society of Petroleum Engineers, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Toyota. 

  • Your Biggest Blind Spot

    Posted on August 6th, 2014 Sally Orcutt No comments
    Your Biggest Blind Spot


    Every time Mike Phillips or Ryan Suydam (co-founders of Client Feedback Tool) speak they share with their audience the importance of asking clients for feedback throughout a project. If you’ve heard them, you know what I’m going to say next. “When you wait until the end of a project to ask your client for their feedback. It’s nothing more than an autopsy!” They’re right. What can you do at that point to impact the client’s experience on ‘that’ project?

    In Your Biggest Blind Spot, Rich Friedman, founder of Friedman & Partners (and Client Feedback Tool partner) shares a story he and Ryan discussed in which Ryan was the client. You guessed it, there were challenges in the service delivery. But, as Ryan was quick to share, the company providing us the service had a feedback strategy and did almost everything right. Unfortunately with everything they did right, all the General Manager could say was “I’m sorry your project didn’t turn out as you expected.”

    Download your copy of ‘Your Biggest Blind Spot’. Read the rest of the story and see the 5 ways to test your client feedback strategy to see if it is driving the value you want.

    Please share your comments related to feedback strategies you’ve seen that have worked (or not). We would appreciate hearing from you.



  • Feedback Quadrant – The Missing Axis of Information

    Posted on April 9th, 2010 Ryan Suydam No comments
    Feedback Quadrant - The Missing Axis of Information

    If you manage a professional services firm, or any projects for a firm, you have most likely seen numerous reports, charts, and other data measuring the financial performance of your project, team, client, or firm.  You have surely seen metrics of profitability, revenue, aged accounts, and more, usually mapped across an axis of time (monthly revenue, for example).

    However, none of these reports show the critical element of the client’s perception of a project’s success.  What may be highly successful for you (in terms of profits, etc) may have been a disaster for the client.  Without metrics showing the clients’ measure of project success, you have little ability to identify the truly successful projects, those that are “half way”, and those that are complete failures (or, at the very least, quite challenged).

    The missing axis of data is feedback.  Feedback provides metrics, from your clients’ perspective, about the success of a project.

    If we map feedback performance on a vertical axis, and financial performance on a horizontal axis, four quadrants of information are created.

    Tracking Project Results

    In the upper-right quadrant, the data points indicate a win-win scenario.  The outcomes of these projects indicate success for both you (high profit) and the client (high feedback).  You can profitably produce a project that meets and exceeds the expectations of the person paying for that project.  Clients in this quadrant should be nurtured and efforts invested to keep this healthy exchange going forward.

    In the upper-left quadrant, the data points still indicate success for the client (high feedback), but the process used to deliver the service hasn’t adequately obtained financial success for you or the firm.  Inefficiency, under-billing, or other business problems may exist.  Most likely, these clients whose expectations were exceeded are very interested in keeping you as a vendor, and will likely be open to future projects being priced and/or scoped more beneficially for you.  Test this carefully, but with confidence.

    The lower-right quadrant provides a bigger challenge.  Here, you have succeeded (high profits), but your client indicates a less successful outcome for them (low feedback).  These clients and projects are critical to keep (they’re very profitable!) but need attention invested into the client relationship.  You may use additional feedback collection (either via the Client Feedback Tool or personal interactions) to uncover underlying problems and negotiate winning solutions.  Increase service consistency and quality, and you can more easily maintain these enjoyable profits.

    Finally, the lower-left quadrant leaves a group of mis-fits.  Here, neither you (low profits) nor the client (poor feedback) won.  You have a lot of options, from firing the client, to strategically working on these clients to first increase their feedback scores.  Only after first building client loyalty and improving service can you then recoup that investment by increasing fees and profitability.  The “keepers” in this quadrant should be diligently moved “up” before moving them to the “right.”

    The Client Feedback Tool offers a unique feature enabling you to map your client feedback against your financial metrics.  Navigate to “Review Feedback > Advanced Reporting Tools” then click on the “View” tab.  Finally, click the “Quadrants” icon on the View ribbon.  You will be able to download a smart, macro-enabled Excel worksheet containing your selected feedback data (select this in the Filters and Options tabs).  Provided in the workbook is a place you copy/paste or manually key-in your financial data (profitability, revenue, etc).  From here, the workbook will generate tables for each quadrant as well as a graphic display of the results to see where your projects, clients, etc are clustered.

  • Johari Window, Part II

    Posted on September 21st, 2009 Ryan Suydam No comments
    Johari Window, Part II

    I blogged about the Johari Window a few months ago here. In summary, the Johari Window is a very simple and quick exercise that any two (or more) people can engage to give and receive feedback quickly, simply, and openly.  I’ve recently come across two online implementations that are fun and easy to use.

    For those social media fans out there, you can use the Facebook application to share feedback with your friends and associates.  What you might learn about yourself is worth the effort.

    If you don’t do the Facebook thing, you can use a stand-alone web version.  No registration or hoops required, but it takes a bit more work to invite others to participate.

    If you haven’t already, experiment with the Johari Window with some friends, family, and/or coworkers.  After filling out the form and comparing notes, a discussion to understand the results may prove even more enlightening.

    Ask for and give feedback daily!

  • Feedback About Me is Really About You…

    Posted on April 30th, 2009 Ryan Suydam No comments
    Feedback About Me is Really About You...

    We’ve spent over five years focused on feedback, and along the way, we’ve participated in every feedback program we come across.  We’ve taken every survey, fielded every call, and attended interviews.  In almost every case, the same mistake is made.  The feedback I’m giving to you, shouldn’t be about you – it should be about me.

    Let me say it again:

    When you ask me for feedback, the focus should be me.

    The most common mistake we see in feedback programs is that the person asking for feedback mistakenly acts as though HE is more important than the client he’s surveying.   The feedback programs are very ego-centric, rather than client-focused.

    Feedback requests should be primarily for the benefit of the person giving feedback.  If there’s nothing in it for them, you won’t get much feedback, and what you do get will not be of good quality.  You also miss a HUGE opportunity to build lasting loyalty and commitment from your client.

    So, how does one ask for feedback for the benefit of the person you’re asking?

    1. Keep it SHORT. You are taking time from your clients when you ask for feedback.  Show them that you respect their time by not wasting any.  Ask only what you need.  If some feedback collected suggests further attention is required, THEN you can take some more time to discover and respond.  Ask no more than 5-7 questions.  Take no more than 2 minutes.  Respect their time as if it’s your own.
    2. Don’t wait until the END. If you collect feedback at the end of a project / service, how is the client helped?  Get feedback EARLY and OFTEN, before the work is done.  The client will know you have a chance to respond, adjust, and deliver the final product in a better way, before it’s too late.
    3. Stay FOCUSED. Their feedback tells you about their needs and expectations – so ask questions that bring this to light.  Avoid questions to which the answer gives them no benefit.  “How do I compare to competitor XYZ” would be a good example of a bad question.  There’s no way to answer in a way that helps me.  Questions such as “How did my responsiveness match your expectations?” lets the client provide course correction – or praise – so you can adjust your responsiveness to a more fitting style, customized for that client.
    4. Follow Up. If you ask, and they respond, do something about it.  Let them know how their feedback is going to help you help them.  Responding in a way that returns immediate results will create an ecosystem of constant feedback, adjustment, communication – and long term loyalty.

    “So what about me?” you may be asking.  That’s where a system for collecting feedback becomes critical.  Collect feedback in a consistent way, in short doses – but get a LOT of it.  Over time you will build a vast history of performance and effectiveness, from which you can glean countless insights into you, your staff, and your company.

    If you want to be client-focused, be sure your client feedback sends the same message!