Client Feedback Tool
  • Ten Things I Learned in 2015

    Posted on November 24th, 2015 Ryan Suydam No comments
    Ten Things I Learned in 2015

    I’ve spent the year attending many of the best conferences in the industry, traveling alongside a few of the savviest business consultants, and working with many of the most forward-thinking professional services firms in the world. We’ve shared books, ideas, and other resources with each other.  It’s December, and my brain is full!

    Before I re-calibrate over the holidays and gear up for another new year of learning in 2016, I wanted to pause and reflect on the best of the best ideas I encountered in 2015. These ideas all went beyond AHA! moments and became integral pieces of how I operate. In short, these are the ideas that stuck, that changed my perception, and affected my behavior.

    Perhaps you’ve been too busy this year to get the professional development you wanted. Perhaps you’re just curious. Either way – I’m sharing my curated list, the best of the best, the things that rose to the top.

    In no particular order, here are ten things I learned this year I thought worth sharing:

    1. There Is No Hope! Darren Smith at Cima Strategic taught me to stop hoping for a project to end well. Instead, put processes in place to KNOW that it will end well. His goal: Have a “best project experience ever” – on every project. I have focused on understanding ideal outcomes from the beginning, and driving towards those more consistently.
    2. Precise Questions Matter. Bob Stocking at Vervago revealed the necessity of asking the right questions, precisely. A few simple techniques can keep even a talker like myself focused on listening with purpose. I have put into practice skills that are both more efficient and effective than the “old way” – leading to deeper conversations and more success in both sales and services delivery.
    3. Social Status is a Matter of Survival. Michelle Brown at Sentis shares how perceived social threats affect our neurochemistry, triggering base instincts and reactions rooted in the origins of humankind as a species. Becoming aware of these triggers, I have been able to re-wire my brain to handle criticism and negativity without the anxiety of before.
    4. Don’t Reject Myself. Jia Jiang at WuJu Learning, revealed how we’re so hardwired to avoid rejection, we will often reject ourselves before we allow others to reject us. Jia’s practical exercises have helped me be bolder, get over myself, and ask for more in life – and getting it.
    5. Clients Don’t Buy Me. Tim Asimos at circle S studio highlights how clients want their problems solved. I will never be an aspiration purchase, I will only be a practical part of a solution. I have begun to focus more on sharing relevant content that solves problems – and the work has followed.
    6. Communication Reduces Risk. Tim Corbett of SmartRisk presented evidence that firms that communicate effectively have a greater probability of being a “high performing firm.” These high performing firms realize dramatically increased profits and both reduced liability and liability premiums. I have begun re-engineering our services delivery process to increase the quality and frequency of client communication to drive better results.
    7. Client Journey Maps are Magic. Tania Salarvand at Valeocon showed me how to create a visual diagram that maps every step of a client interaction. Seeing all the exchanges and touch points enabled me to streamline our own client journey, launched a reorganization of our team to deliver accordingly.
    8. Client Delighters Drive Growth. Terry Reynolds at Kleinfelder shared a story of shopping at three stores one of which stood out. They surprised him with a unique approach that created real delight. It also created a new client and a sale. Terry’s experience encouraged me to look for delighters that we can insert into our processes every day.
    9. 21st Century Businesses Must be Frictionless.  Geoff Colvin at Fortune Magazine discusses the concept of “frictionless” businesses – new ways of doing old things that simplify processes – taking all the bumps out of the path. Uber revolutionized the transportation market – and continues to threaten many other established businesses. Uber works because it’s EASY for the consumer. Every week at our weekly team meeting we now discuss where our clients see friction points, and discuss ways to remove the friction.
    10. Build a Habit Forming Business. Nir Eyal from Nir and Far reveals the four step process every game-changing application employs. In a decade, Facebook grew from nothing to actively engaging 20% of the world’s people on a daily basis – ever wonder how? I have taken the core insights from Nir’s research and begun to shape both our services and our products accordingly. Our clients succeed when they develop habits of engaging with us, and we succeed when they keep coming back for more.

    I certainly learned more than these ten things – but these are the concepts, ideas, and best practices that have actually caused me to change how I approach business, leadership, and the future.

    What are the concepts you have put into practice in 2015? If you’re not already registered, join us on December 15th for a complementary webinar and share your ideas (so I know what to work on next year).

  • Are You Okay? I Was Worried About You.

    Posted on November 19th, 2015 Ryan Suydam No comments

    Are You Okay? I Was Worried About You.

    That’s the first thing I heard from the receptionist at the dentist this morning. I had placed the appointment on my calendar an hour later than scheduled, and missed the visit.

    Rather than show any frustration at how I messed up the schedule (it was a big visit), the receptionist’s first reaction was concern for me. You see, it was raining quite hard this morning. She knows I have a 30-mile commute. And her reaction to my lateness was one of care and concern – about me.

    I’m sure my mistake caused problems. At the very least, they provided a dentist for two hours, and now he would not be billing those hours. We had to reschedule a visit for a few weeks out, so now they can’t sell those hours to someone else. Who knows what other challenges I inconvenienced them with.

    Faced with a client who showed up an hour late to a meeting (or missed it altogether), many of us would sigh, or acknowledge the extra work we have to do now. Many of us would take another tack, and put on a good face: “Oh, no problem at all! We had a REALLY busy day here too, so it’s really quite convenient of you to reschedule. Actually, it helps us out a lot.” I’ve done that many times myself.

    But I’ve never had a person in business say “Are you okay? I was worried about you.”

    I’ve used the two unexpected hours of free time to ponder this mind shift, one where our bias is to care and to genuinely be concerned for our clients. Those two simple sentences humbled me immediately. Here I am, a professional who helps other professionals elevate their care for clients. And yet, would I have ever gone so far as this – SHOWING a client I care more about their wellbeing than my schedule?

    The lesson is clear, but the application of the lesson less so. I appeal to you, readers, to contribute stories from your experience in business. When have you seen compassion like this in business? By citing example, perhaps we can all begin modeling transformational, differentiating care to our clients.

  • Rejection Proof: Move Beyond Fear to Drive Better Project Outcomes

    Posted on November 7th, 2015 Ryan Suydam No comments
    Rejection Proof: Move Beyond Fear to Drive Better Project Outcomes

    What client conversations do you avoid because you fear rejection?

    Jia Jiang, leading authority on rejection, has found a way beyond this harmful fear. And, I want to invite you to attend his webinar on Tuesday, November 17th. Jia is a dynamic speaker and will offer tips to set you free to achieve more in your business (and maybe even your life).

    Jia will share his solution to the constant internal struggle we all face when looking rejection in the eyes. He tells the story of how he found the solution and finally conquered this fear.

    According to Jia, the most important insight he learned while overcoming his fear of rejection: just ASK. If you don’t ask, you reject yourself before you give the other person a chance to say YES.

    Overcome fear of rejectionWhen delivering a project or working with clients, we all give away too much, we undersell our value, and we miss opportunities to succeed because we simply fear our clients saying “no”. Jia will provide actionable steps you and your team can immediately put in practice to get clients saying YES.

    In this webinar Jia shares key insights:

    • Rejection is an opinion – the rejection is theirs, not yours
    • Fear of rejection turns others into adversaries rather than collaborators
    • Giving people the chance to voice their doubts gains their attention and trust
    • Rejection as a tool sharpens our learning, adaptation, and improvement
    • Rejection is sometimes not rejection at all

    Everyone who attends the Webinar on November 17th from 1:30 to 2:30 EDT can win one of ten copies of Jia’s book, Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible through 100 Days of Rejection.

    Whether you are responsible for business development, project management, or you are leading a team of individuals, don’t miss this chance to hear Jia live, as he takes our audience on a journey of triumph and self-discovery.

    Jia Jiang is a keynote speaker, author, and the founder of FearBuster. Jia has taken his message to the stage and is now a highly sought-after keynote speaker on how to empower your life by overcoming rejection. His story has been profiled in Bloomberg Business Week, Yahoo News, Forbes, and The Huffington Post. Soon, Jia is turning his “Rejection Therapy” into a highly anticipated television series.

  • 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.

  • 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.



  • John Doehring shares ‘Ten Top Tips’ in Free Webinar

    Posted on July 23rd, 2014 Sally Orcutt No comments
    John Doehring shares 'Ten Top Tips' in Free Webinar


    Dad was right.

    My dad used to say “It doesn’t matter what you know if you can’t communicate it effectively.” My dad was born and raised in England. I still remember the way he used to cringe when he would hear us ‘butcher’ the English language.

    According to a 2008 NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) poll, companies rate the ability to communicate effectively above work ethic and teamwork when asked what skills they looked for in employees.

    Typically managers spend 75% to 80% of their time engaged in written or oral communication. Think about it, email, team meetings, client meetings (and calls), proposals, reports – these are but a few examples of the ways managers communicate each day.

    Tom Northrup, Management Consultant and author of “Five Hidden Mistakes CEOs Make” says that excellent communication skills create a more productive work environment while poor skills lessen productivity.

    We’ve collaborated with John Doehring to bring you “Ten Top Tips of Totally Terrific Communicators“. His 90-minute webinar brings a fresh and candid perspective on how members of your team can effectively and consistently enhance both internal and external communication. Those attending will learn how strong communication leads to:

    • Increased team motivation and commitment
    • Ability to build your firm’s reputation and increase sales
    • Stronger time management and organization
    • Greater client loyalty through understanding preferences

    REGISTER today (live webinar is this Thursday, July 24th (11 am CST, noon EST, and 9 am PST). Hear practical, actionable ideas and methods for increasing the communication skills on your team.

    Space is limited. (Note: You will receive a login confirmation reserving your space.)

    John Doehring is an industry expert and a nationally recognized speaker. His programs include keynote and focus sessions at regional and national conventions such as ACEC, AIA, NSPE, SAME, SMPS, and SEA. Attendees at his sessions consistently identify his ability to provide action items that can be implemented immediately as a core strength of his message.  

  • 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!

  • The Best Questions to Ask – Deliverables and Relationships

    Posted on April 17th, 2009 Mike Phillips 2 comments
    The Best Questions to Ask - Deliverables and Relationships
    The most effective type of client feedback covers a wide variety of issues related to the efforts that a professional services firm makes for their clients. In order to be useful, the feedback must also accurately capture the clients’ perception of how the service-providing firm performed relative to the client expectations. This is a critical aspect for feedback to be able to help a firm understand their client and how to quickly create the maximum value. If the firm did not meet the expectations of their client, a problem is created that if unnoticed and left unattended, can fester into a major issue or a liability insurance claim. With the typical cost of claims at over $300,000 /year and each claim averaging about 3 years duration, that’s a million dollar misunderstanding.

    However, whether the firm exceeded the client’s expectations or not, effective feedback will contain sufficient specifics to allow the firm to understand exactly what the client either appreciated or objected to. In surveying clients for their feedback, we have found that the shorter and simpler the survey, the greater number of surveys are returned with feedback. Our research has shown that a survey that takes more than a few minutes to complete will be abandoned by 95% of people.


    The ultimate challenge of gathering effective feedback is to make the survey very comprehensive while also being very concise. Over the years, we have distilled the survey questions to a grand total of six. In order for only six questions to cover a wide gamut of client service issues we divided the topics covered into two main categories: Deliverables and Relationships. “Deliverables” inventory the client’s perceptions on WHAT the design firm produced. “Relationships” questions collect feedback on HOW the firm’s process worked. Deliverable questions focus on things while relationship questions focus on people.


    The key factors regarding the Deliverables include how well the design firm’s products:
    • Attended to the Schedule goals of the project
    • Addressed the Budget parameters of the project
    • Included the appropriate Accuracy required to be effective
    The key factors regarding the Relationships include how well the design staff’s process:
    • Offered the Helpfulness needed by the client
    • Included the Responsiveness desired by the client
    • Contained the level of Quality sought by the client
    This breakdown of categories was honed to produce the most constructive feedback for professional service firms while also allowing clients the opportunity to offer succinct but satisfying feedback in order to produce the most successful project. While the firm gets full credit for being proactive and professional in asking for feedback, the client becomes more involved and engaged in the project and therefore feels more ownership in the outcome.

    A survey tool that includes one question in each of the above six categories, particularly if the survey uses our specialized process-oriented question format and detailed numeric answer slider can collect valuable, objective, actionable feedback for a professional services firm in only two minutes of a client’s day.
  • The Feedback Cycle

    Posted on April 12th, 2009 Ryan Suydam No comments
    The Feedback Cycle

    Everyone has heard the idea of a “feedback loop” or cycle.  In fact, “Feedback Cycle” is rather redundant, as the original definition of feedback (according to Marriam Webster) is ” the return to the input of a part of the output of a process.”  In effect, the very word feedback means to take the results of a process, and feed them into the start of the next process iteration.

    Our Client Feedback Tool helps you utilize feedback from clients (internal or external) in a complete cycle:

    • Ask for Feedback
    • Review your Feedback
    • Follow-up to your Feedback

    When managing client relationships, each component is critical.  Asking for feedback shows that you care.  Asking creates an open atmosphere of communication, setting a precident that you welcome correction and enhancements any time – not just when you ask for them.

    Reviewing feedback – immediately when it is received – allows you to identify where refinement is required.  You know who has pain, and the context is there to help you solve any problems.  You also know when you’ve become someone’s “expert” – when you’ve reached that level of service and process refinement that will keep you glued to your client for years to come.

    Most importantly, track your follow-up. When you ask for, receive, and review feedback – it is now your obligation to incorporate that feedback into your work going forward.  Especially if you received corrective feedback from a client, it is critical to follow-up, and discuss what adjustments are being made.   The adjustments may be to your process, or they may be to bring unreasonable expectations into line with the project constraints.   Either way, once feedback has been given to you, it’s your role to provide a response, or feedback, of your own.   If you do get corrective feedback from a client, and don’t follow-up, you not only have missed a huge opportunity to shine, but may incur more damage to the relationship by indicating you don’t care enough to respond.  Feedback is a two-way street.

    Our Client Feedback Tool gives you the resources you need to collect and track feedback, and share/publish the follow-up to others in your firm who may work with that client.  You create a client history of decisions, adjustments, and celebrations helping cement the loyalty of your best clients.

  • Feedback and the Johari Window

    Posted on February 26th, 2009 Ryan Suydam 4 comments
    Feedback and the Johari Window

    The 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 left). Likewise, the more feedback you provide, the smaller your facade, and again, the bigger your arena (the horizontal line moves down).

    Diagram of the Johari Window

    Diagram of the Johari Window

    Using a feedback system 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.

    Want to learn, we invite you to visit our website.