Posted on May 17th, 2013 View Comments
Release 6.9 of the Client Feedback Tool includes dozens of enhancements and improvements. I will summarize some of the most significant and readily apparent changes below. Many other improvements were added that fixed or modified issues ranging from a misspelling to browser display issues and will not be discussed in-depth.
1. New reminders to follow up low scores
Follow-up reminders are now available to remind you to follow up on any low scores you may have forgotten to address. Go to PREFERENCES> Set Preferences. Click on Alerts in the Feedback Settings tab. Check the box labeled ‘Remind of follow-up to low scoring feedback.’ If you receive a survey response below your low-score threshold, and no follow-up is documented, a week later we will send you a reminder. Project and firm managers can also set reminders regarding follow-up to project and firm surveys, as applicable.
2. Protect against duplicate take-survey reminders
For your convenience, the Tool now has additional functionality to help prevent your recipients from receiving confusing multiple survey reminders. On the ‘Modify a survey sent’ screen, if you attempt to send a survey reminder to a recipient who was already scheduled to receive an automatic reminder, the Tool will tell you that an automatic reminder is scheduled. You can then choose to send both reminders, cancel the automatic one, or cancel (close) the manual one.
Note: Typically you decide whether to send automatic reminders when you send a survey.
3. New quick-link to Ultimate Question information
You will find a new link on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) report (REVIEW FEEDBACK > Net Promoter Score). This link, ‘More Information about NPS,’ is just below the graph. Click the link to open a new window to our blog site and learn more about the Ultimate Question and your Net Promoter Score.
4. Convenient links to additional data in basic reports
On many reports, you will see more new underlined links that provide additional details regarding projects, recipients, and senders. One example: On your REVIEW FEEDBACK > Surveys sent screen, notice how the project names in the first column are underlined. If you click on a project name, a new modal opens to display additional information regarding that project, such as Question Category Average Scores in the Last 90 days and 360 days. You can also see how many survey Invitations and Replies have occurred in the Past 90/360 days.
5. New ‘Survey’ report filter
You can now filter your reports by Survey Template/ID in addition to the numerous other filters already offered. You can find this multiple-select basic filter on many REVIEW FEEDBACK reports, on the left side of the ribbon.
6. DesignFacilitator is becoming the Client Feedback Tool
DesignFacilitator’s Client Feedback Tool was originally conceived as a powerful tool for the exclusive use of design professionals – architects, engineers, interior designers, etc. However, over the years we found that many non-design service professionals— government, legal, construction— appreciate the simplicity and power of the Tool and value its reports. Consequently, we are transitioning our branding to simply the Client Feedback Tool. This transition requires no changes or action on your part. Both www.clientfeedbacktool.com and www.designfacilitator.com take you to the site.
7. Firm Administrators (FA): Present tense answer scale added
Previously, the Client Feedback Tool presented survey questions only in the past tense (Met Expectations, not Meets Expectations). Many of you have requested an occasional present tense survey question. The Client Feedback Tool sliding answer scale now supports this. The survey recipient will see the present tense answer choices when he/she is taking the survey. However, your report scales will continue to display in the past tense since the overwhelming majority of questions are worded as such.
8. Firm Administrators can edit all member preferences
An FA can provide enhanced service to all firm members. In MY FIRM > Users/Security > (member) Edit, you can edit management permissions, on-behalf-of permissions, and modify members’ preferences. Now an FA can even edit Firm Event alerts and permissions for a Firm Manager. This can be especially useful when adding new members— because sometimes with new experiences “It’s just faster to do it than to explain it.”
9. Improved adding/importing
We have improved the functionality when adding/importing contact or project data. Where appropriate, you can now merge new and existing company types and update project information while you are adding/importing the data.
Posted on May 13th, 2013 View Comments
Project delivery is all about taking an idea from concept through to production. Firms want their projects completed in the fastest and most cost-efficient manner possible, all without sacrificing quality. Incorporating feedback into a firm’s process helps the team perform at their best, while the very act of asking for feedback shows clients proactive and professional care. To help jump start your client feedback process, we’ve listed the top 10 feedback techniques to facilitate project delivery.
1. Make it Comfortable.
When requesting feedback make sure the process is comfortable to use for all parties. The more comfortable the process, the more likely both parties are to participate. A comfortable process means clients will not feel put on the spot and concerned about a confrontation. Focus questions on processes, not personalities, and offer a flexible answer scale to capture subtle nuances of perceptions.
2. Create Actionable Results.
An effective feedback technique requires data to enable follow-up. Be sure you are asking questions that allow you to retrieve measurable, actionable data. If the questions are too vague or too open ended, you won’t have the information that you need to take action.
3. Process Focused.
The questions asked should be about process rather than people or products. We aren’t looking to find out how well the client “liked” us, but rather where our process is working great and where it might need some improvement.
4. Go Beyond Satisfaction.
Ask your clients questions focused on their expectations, instead of their satisfaction, because satisfaction is the expected norm. The client’s perception of how you performed compared to their expectations is the key to knowing where to improve your project delivery process. Additionally, you’ll find 500% more exceptionally positive feedback than you will challenging feedback – and we all love to discover good news.
5. Reduce Liability.
When asking for feedback, focus on questions that can reduce liability and encourage positive outcomes. Just by asking for feedback throughout a project, you are creating a record of the service perceptions all along the way, reducing the chance of a lawsuit and increasing your ability to meet their needs. Feedback helps keep you and your client aligned on a common goal – a successful project outcome.
6. Don’t Wait.
Collect feedback throughout the project, not just at the end – when it’s too late to improve that project. Response rates are highest when the client senses his feedback might improve the project outcome. Once the project is over, the incentive to respond is gone.
7. Make it Trackable.
Tracking feedback responses isn’t complicated, but making sure everyone on your team gets the feedback they need, reviews it, and takes appropriate action can be much more challenging. Deploy good tools to capture who is asking for feedback, who’s responding, and who takes what action on each critical response.
8. Use Instant Alerts.
Collect feedback in a way that you can be instantly alerted to new feedback and drive real-time follow-up. A good system will establish score thresholds that indicate, in real-time, when follow-up is required for exceptional circumstances. Make sure the right people are alerted so nothing falls through the cracks.
9. Keep the Client First.
Structure your feedback techniques so that it is quick and easy for the client to give you feedback. Don’t waste their time with long surveys or questions with answers that only matter to you. Response rates are higher with multiple short surveys over a period of time, than with one or two long surveys sent less frequently.
10. Follow up.
Don’t neglect the follow up! A survey should always start a conversation, not replace one. Typically, follow-up is simply a personal acknowledgement that you saw and read the response. However, if any special situations were noted (either in scores or comments) be sure you open a dialogue to show how the feedback will change the process and project going forward.
Each of these feedback techniques focus on a deliberate approach to your feedback collection efforts. Set your goals to collect actionable feedback in way that is easy for the client. Make understanding the results and following up easy for you too. See feedback as the opportunity that it is to improve your process, reduce your liability and become your client’s expert.
Posted on July 31st, 2012 View Comments
Read Mike Phillips’ article “Managing Your Clients For Win-Win Outcomes” in the A&E Business Journal: AE Business 2012.
For a free copy of the entire journal, call 405-848-1111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on April 13th, 2012 View Comments
Headquartered in Kirkland, WA with offices around the western US as well as the Middle East, Transpo Group has been providing transportation planning and engineering solutions since 1975. A firm grounded in service to both their clients and their community, they strive to treat others as they would like to be treated, and to exceed client expectations.
Committed to service and collaboration, they were excited to partner with DesignFacilitator and use the Client Feedback Tool to learn more about the quality of their client services. By using a tool that systematically collects data on a numerical scale that can be merged and tracked over time, Transpo Group has the opportunity to see both a snapshot view of their client feedback and long term trends.
Asking for feedback regularly gives Transpo Group the data they need to determine what practices or ideas lead to client satisfaction, and also identify areas where their process may need adjustment. Because the feedback surveys are tied to specific projects, they can pinpoint exactly where more attention is needed, and give their client a chance to offer positive feedback or voice any concerns that were not addressed in previous conversations. It offers clients an easy and comfortable way to offer their suggestions and their positive comments and praise.
Transpo Group is using the overwhelmingly positive results of their feedback in a creative way. They periodically summarize their consistently great results, and place them into a chart posted directly onto their website. Additionally, testimonials and rave comments collected via the feedback process are displayed in rotation on the page’s side-bar. Now, when clients visit the firm’s website, they can view evidence that the firm is truly dedicated client service and strong relationships. (See adjacent image.)
Learn more about how to incorporate client feedback into your marketing efforts by exploring our blog. Find tips on how to get your firm into the Top 3% by both collecting and taking action on your feedback, read Koontz Bryant’s Client Feedback Journal describing how they started using feedback to improve their business, or learn Who should be asking for feedback and why its important to do it in a way that gives your firm honest, valuable information.
Posted on March 7th, 2012 View Comments
Net Promoter – Now Offered in Client Feedback Tool
Based on popular demand, we are pleased to announce that the Client Feedback Tool version 5.3 now includes support for the Net Promoter Score/Ultimate Question survey methodology. Read on to understand what this is, how it complements our current system, and how to start using it.
Net Promoter Score Overview
In recent years, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) customer satisfaction system has become a popular and widely used management metric. Many modern satisfaction and Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs in some way incorporate NPS as a device.
The founding principles of NPS can be found in The Ultimate Question, a book by Fred Reichheld. In short, Reichheld lays out a methodology in which ONE QUESTION (the Ultimate Question) provides data highly predictive of future growth and success.
Based on extensive and sound research, NPS provides a simple, single metric by which to track your outcomes and progress. The basic question asked is:
How likely are you to refer us to a colleague?
The answer scale ranges from 0-10, very unlikely to very likely. The theory of NPS is that anyone answering 0-6 are detractors, people who will ultimately speak poorly of your company and services. Those responding with scores of 7 and 8 are passives, those who will likely neither promote or defame your company. Finally, the promoters are those providing scores of 9 and 10 – they are very likely to promote your organization to others.
Your Net Promoter Score (NPS) is the difference between promoters and detractors. For example, if you have 52% promoters and 18% detractors, your NPS is 34. Passives in this case don’t count.
The very best corporations in America receive NPS scores consistently in the 75% range (think Apple, USAA, Google). Others, such as Time Warner Cable and many other telecoms actually have negative Net Promoter Scores (more detractors than promoters).
You’ll find extensive research by many pundits showing the correlation between revenue, profit, and market-share growth based on NPS. And while NPS provides a single, simple metric to show where your company currently is, the process of actually improving your NPS is much more nebulous.
Using Feedback to Improve NPS
Wait a minute. I thought NPS was feedback.
Yes, NPS is a form of feedback. But NPS is limited to telling you where you are right now (and where you’ve been, once you have history). It doesn’t provide direct insight in how to actually get better. NPS is like a street sign. The sign indicates where you are – but you need the GPS to help you navigate to where you want to be.
The Ultimate Question typically includes a “part 2″ – which is to ask “Why did you give this score?” By harvesting this data organizations are able to gain insights on what customer perceptions are trending. This may work well for very large data sets – and is well suited to Business to Customer measurements.
Professional services, on the other hand, are much more personal and interactive. You don’t often have massive data sets to work with, and the value of each client tends to be a much larger percentage of your net revenue. It’s therefore relevant to use the Client Feedback Tool’s established methodology tracking client expectations in six to eight key categories (helpfulness, responsiveness, quality, accuracy, schedule, budget, etc).
Measuring these at major milestones during project delivery provides clear, specific, and concise guidance for how to get better for each client. During the project, when you can do something about it. Net Promoter Score becomes an additional question to ask at project completion, to identify how well you executed and created a potential promoter.
In contrast to our self-centering expectations scale, the NPS score is logarithmic. There is a ceiling, and as you improve over time the upward trend in NPS will become smaller and smaller, until you level out somewhere around 80% (the level the very best companies have attained). Once your NPS is higher than anyone else in the market, you have lost your ability to measure further improvement. You can no longer try something new and observe a shift in scores validating the new process actually worked better. So, while NPS is very helpful to track progress over time and understand your market position, it can’t help you identify the value of your continued improvement efforts.
NPS: Part of Your Complete Feedback ProgramThe Client Feedback Tool enables you to track your own performance relative to expectations, and continuously improve (even if you are already the best in the market). Adding the NPS to your approach, you can now see if you are indeed market-leading. The Net Promoter Question can be added to any survey on the fly when sending, enabled to be on by default for selected templates (e.g., a Project Completion survey), or built into the survey template design when our team creates a custom template for you.
For questions or help with NPS, or any broader feedback questions, please contact us at email@example.com and one of our consultants will help you on your feedback journey.
Posted on December 7th, 2011 View CommentsYou may have heard the old adage, what’s measured, tends to improve. Research, observation, and common sense all support this idea. Measuring becomes a fundamental tool to manage results. Desired results, much like the destination on a road trip, are usually known. However, the milestones chosen to measure progress towards the endpoint often become a distraction, leading one off course.Knowing you have to pass through Washington to get to New York doesn’t mean you define success by driving towards Washington. If that’s all you measure, you’ll eventually get turned around, and stuck circling the city, rather than heading further north.The lesson here is to spend time developing True North Indicators – measurements that help align your progress with your target destination – and make sure you keep heading north until you have arrived.First, we’ll explore a brief history of measurement science, to understand why measuring is important. Second, we’ll look at measuring wrongly; and finally, outline a few key principals for choosing the right measurements.
Measurement science in the modern era really grew roots in the early 20th century, in a manufacturing experiment. Though the factory in question had measured the number of widgets per hour produced for a while, they thought increasing lighting on the assembly floor might increase output. They set up observers at each step on the assembly line, and observed the impact. Needless to say, production increased. However, in the early 1900′s lighting was expensive, so they began lowering the light level to find the optimum balance. Strangely, production stayed just as high – even when lighting was reduced to pre-experiment levels. Further research and experimentation led to the what is now known as the Hawthorn Effect – what’s measured, improves. Lighting wasn’t the change that increased output – measuring was.
Measurement science made many advances in the last hundred years, particularly in productivity environments. However, measuring the wrong things created many problems along the way. Greg Howell, former Executive Director of the Lean Construction Institute shares his experience from the early days of measuring productivity in construction management:
Once upon a time around 1978, I was asked to help the management team on a large industrial project figure out why reports from the work sampling initiative were showing both improved “wrench time” and reduced productivity. It just seemed unlikely that people could spend more time working and get less done. So I carried my TimeLapse cameras to the site, climbed the structure and filmed operations. I saw strange things going on there. Every time a worker went to the toilet, a piece of pipe or lumber was left leaning against the outhouse and carried away when leaving. And I saw a crew moving heavy lumber from one location to another. Working in pairs, they picked up several pieces and carried them from one pile to the next. And then they carried one back…. Handling materials gained more credit than walking empty-handed; So they always carried materials. The statistics showed walking empty handed was dropping while the amount of time spent handling material was going up. Are we surprised? The old saw, “What gets measured gets done.” is true.
Which brings us to where we started – figuring out what to measure in order to produce the results desired. How do we assure we’re actually heading to the Big Apple, and not circling Washington on the Capitol Beltway over and over again?
If you run a business, measuring financial indicators is certainly important. But like the example earlier, profit numbers can be fluffed up (for a while, at least) when measured inside a vacuum. Any internal metric can be managed and manipulated by a creative business manager, especially if he has a bonus tied to his number. Therefore, choosing the right numbers to track becomes critical.
- First, brainstorm with your leadership group what your goals are, if you don’t already know. Make sure you can create consensus on where you want to go (or, at least where the first stop should be).
- Second, for each metric currently in place, try to identify a counter-metric. What is the “cost” of increasing profit? Eliminating 50% of your support staff might save a buck for a while – increasing profits – but ultimately will increase the frustration of those needing your services. Measure both profits AND customer satisfaction, so profit growth can occur, but not at the expense of something just as critical.
- Finally, test each metric and try to break them before deploying. Poll those who’ll be using the system, and those who won’t. Ask them candidly how they’d game the numbers, until you hone in on a set of metrics that matter, and point you closer to true north.
Measuring ensures success. The measurement science of customer loyalty and behavior drives long term growth, committed customers, and a strong inward flow of referrals. Measuring client satisfaction, the real source of success as a professional service organization, is just as critical to track as your income statement and balance sheet. You look at your financial reports every month, and carefully track progress over time – but when was the last time you looked at metrics from your clients’ perspective – how well you’re doing for them?
If you’d like help developing a strategy for what to measure, our team is here and able to help you find True north for your firm and your clients.
Posted on November 22nd, 2011 View Comments
Gearing up for a Thanksgiving weekend, many of us are already thinking about food, and all the great treats we’ll get to enjoy with friends and family over the coming days. And in that spirit, let’s explore one of those great moments when work and life cross paths. Today my wife baked a Thanksgiving treat for my second daughter’s first grade class, and posted a status update to her Facebook page about the event, showcasing an important lesson about feedback:
Today I brought a treat into school for Leah’s class. One of her classmates saw me walk by with a Tupperware container and started flagging me down in the lunchroom, mouthing words to me across two tables. I finally deduced that he was asking if I brought something for the class. I nodded, and he grinned really big. On his way past me to the trash can he leaned over and said, “I love it when you bake!”
My wife, as you can tell, felt GREAT to get this kind of feedback. As a mother of four wonderful kids, she invests tremendous efforts into being a Supermom – frequently baking, volunteering, and helping any way she can. She spends many of those efforts outside our immediate family, providing value (baked goods, in this case) to an entire community (the class of eager first graders).
And though her job isn’t paid (trust me, I couldn’t afford 10% of what she’s worth), she does all this for moments like the one today in the cafeteria. The simple act of an enthusiastic “Thanks!” from a first-grader provided all the compensation she needed to keep on working as hard as she does.
As a professional service provider, your sense that what you do is worthwhile is a huge part of your compensation, and it comes down to feeling appreciated. And yet so many of the people we encounter in the industry are, quite simply, afraid to ask for feedback. There’s no need for that fear! Helping firms like yours we’ve seen that 96% of feedback is positive, 84% overwhelmingly so. If you manage a design or engineering staff and you aren’t currently loading them up with real, tangible, feedback (especially from clients), you are missing a huge opportunity to build a powerful sense of purpose in their work.
Your clients, busy professionals, aren’t always positioned to see your people carrying the metaphorical bin of cookies down the school hall. Sometimes, they simply get distracted and forget to acknowledge your people and the great work they’ve done.
There’s no shame in asking! Though the purpose of a feedback system is almost always primarily about finding problems, the outcome is predominantly a resounding validation of successes. With no sense of shameless self-promotion, your staff can seek genuine opportunities to improve, and instead be rewarded with constant doses of appreciation.
As you take a moment this week to pause and reflect on those things of which you are thankful, consider sending some feedback to the professionals around you, that serve you every day. Even if they don’t ask for it, give them a call (or, better, call their boss) and say thanks for the great work. Then, as you plan for 2012, find a way to make asking for feedback from your clients a part of your daily processes. You won’t find an easier, more fun, and more healthy way to engage your staff and let them feel appreciated.
Posted on October 26th, 2011 View Comments
Join us as we follow Koontz-Bryant, P.C. as they use client feedback to improve their business, culture, and overall prosperity. In the fourth installment, Martha Shotwell, Controller, describes the varied ways in which they use the feedback they collect and the benefits of an on-site consultation from DesignFacilitator staff. Read previous entries here: Journal Entry 1, Journal Entry 2, Journal Entry 3.
When we implemented the Client Feedback Tool, we had certain expectations about how we would use the survey data. We expected to stimulate dialogue with our clients; to identify opportunities for improvement; and to collect information about group and staff performance. We found the program to be effective in these areas. With an onsite visit from DesignFacilitator consultants, we were challenged to do even more with the data.
As we reported last time, we kicked off our program with general satisfaction surveys to faithful clients, initiated by our company president. Many of the respondents singled out individual employees for praise. The surveys gave us an additional opportunity for a client “touch” – to thank the client for responding, to show gratitude for their kind words, to reinforce in the clients’ minds how happy they were with us – and to ask for referrals. When we moved on to project-specific surveys initiated by project managers, the feedback became more specific. Through this tool we discovered that a client needed to see invoice information a different way. Another client rated us as merely “acceptable” on “scope and fees.” This presented an opportunity for a frank discussion with the client about pricing. Turns out she had beat us up over price and had gotten a reduced fee – which allowed no room for the extra attention to which she was accustomed. We have had numerous occasions to chat with clients as a result of feedback.
After we were up and running for a few months, Ryan and David from DesignFacilitator came to our office for an onsite consultation. We were doing a good job responding to individual survey data. However, they observed that we were not harnessing the power of the reports. Armed with reports consolidating our company data, they demonstrated that we have a great story to tell. Using Advanced Reporting Tools, they had produced a pie chart showing our results by performance category. Fully 77% of the responses showed that we had exceeded expectations or better. Our consultants recommended that we find a way to make this a part of our company narrative. They showed us statistical reports showing averages by question category. We also spent some time analyzing the bar graph report, to isolate particular groups who had unusual aggregate responses. Seeing that one group, for example, always scored “exceptional” in the “scope and fees” category, for example, might be indicative that this department has set its fees too low. We have continued to explore the advanced reporting options available to us. For example, we have made good use of the “Tags” feature. We can limit reports based on project type or company type, but at times a broader criterion is warranted. As Firm Administrator, I have created a few tags on which I can filter my reports.
To use the survey results to tell our story, we enlisted our new Marketing Director and social media guru. Alyah wrote a news piece for our website. Using data from the reports, she created a bar chart to illustrate our results. She sent a “Survey says” Tweet with a link to the story, and promoted it on Facebook. After getting clients’ permission to publish their responses, Alyah plans to include client comments on our web page. We have also begun modifying our printed marketing materials and presentation outlines to incorporate client care as a differentiator.
Our DesignFacilitator consultants had also advised that we promote our survey results within our company. We have posted summaries on the company intranet, and we encourage all staff to use our great feedback to promote Koontz-Bryant. On a large whiteboard in the breakroom, we periodically post a “Client Feedback Quote of the Day” culled from the comments. Praise for employees by name becomes public in a low-tech, high-touch way. This has generated some great whiteboard kudos and prompted some great conversations.
When Ryan and David visited with us, they helped us use the Client Feedback Tool in a fuller technical capacity. More important than that, however, they gave us some sound business and marketing advice. In a business where the things we do can be perceived as commodities, they have helped us to position ourselves as client caretakers.
Posted on October 21st, 2011 View Comments
One of the most common questions asked when we help organizations establish a feedback process is “Who should be asking for feedback?” Somehow, the common perception has become that an independent third-party facilitator soliciting the feedback will produce “more honest” results. Whether an outside consultant performs the surveys, or whether they all come “from the CEO” – this mindset is based on perceptions that differ from what we’ve actually observed within our Client Feedback Tool.
There are many components at play in the dynamics of feedback exchanges, and it’s important to understand what the ramifications are for your feedback process design. We can categorize feedback into three general groups:
- Peer Feedback – this feedback happens between peers working closely together. Typically these will be members of the same team within an organization, however highly integrated project teams (IPD, etc) and very close/long-term clients may fall into this category. Here, feedback is given from one person to another within the context of a safe, environment. Regardless of the feedback, these two people will continue to work together – either by choice or by force – and therefore any disruptions to the relationship are critical to address and fix. You’re “stuck” with each other, so there’s a high incentive to optimize the work processes between you.
- Self Collected Client Feedback – these relationships are a bit more distant than those with your peers, and yet the people actually doing the work with a client are the ones gathering their own feedback. The client has invested time (and money) into the relationship, and may consider you to be “up to speed” with his processes, preferences, and needs. He has great incentive to continue the relationship, but can freely end it if the value proposition moves in the wrong direction.
- 3rd Party Feedback – third party feedback almost always comes from “the boss” of the persons doing the work. While this may mean a principal or executive, often times a hired consultant (hired by “the boss”) is engaged on their behalf to collect feedback. Ultimately, the client perceives the interviewer to be in some way able to affect the destiny of the people being measured.
It’s important to understand these distinctions when designing a feedback process. With this understanding, we can begin looking at the incentive and motivations for the person giving feedback, and from there, begin to understand where they will be “most honest.”
What we’ve found, over seven+ years of research, is that your clients generally like you (and/or your staff). They value working with the people doing their work. If they didn’t, you would have received their feedback by their departure as clients. Since they have trained you/your staff to their ways, there is an investment that, if lost, would be costly to recover. They are typically motivated to maintain continuity in the relationship.
Here’s where we turn common perceptions upside down. Giving feedback to “the boss” doesn’t create more honesty. Instead, since the clients like the people being reviewed, they tend to hide problems, gloss over problems, and heap praises for what’s good. If they didn’t, then perhaps the boss might assign a different resource to them. Even worse – the person they like might get in trouble, or at least in some way penalized, for doing less than a great job. Not wanting to rock the boat, or get their “expert” in trouble (and maybe face retribution?) they provide moderate to positive scores, and rarely identify issues.
The closer the relationship, actually, the more low scores tend to be given. When a project manager gets feedback directly from his client, the client now has real incentive to nit pick, identify little opportunities for improvement, and generally tweak the process to better meet his needs. The client doesn’t fear getting anyone in trouble, and he knows that the right person will get the feedback, interpret it more correctly, and most importantly - take action on it. Where this interaction tends to be challenged is when it’s forced into a face-to-face interaction. Conflict resolution is an acquired skill, and many people are not very skilled at it. Thus, in-person feedback exchanges tend to be lightweight and avoid raising issues. When issues are raised, the person receiving the criticism must also then be skilled at responding well – not getting defensive or creating excuses. Here’s where an electronic system for feedback exchange presents a key advantage – with just enough separation to allow comfortable criticism, the Client Feedback Tool enables discovery of even little nuances in project delivery. With time to process the results before responding, you and your staff can craft an appropriate and measured response that is helpful, constructive, and designed to build better results for everyone.
Peer feedback takes this even further. Being “stuck” with each other, both parties are equally incentivized to create a healthier, more productive working relationship. When these people can share feedback openly and systematically, directly to each other, they build bridges upon which to base strong, lasting collaboration.
But don’t just take my word for it. We have data to prove it!
This data comes from a consistent set of our Client Feedback Tool results. Over nearly 1600 responses are broken into the three groups, from left to right:
- Peer Feedback
- Self Collected Client Feedback
- 3rd Party Collected Client Feedback.
No wonder so many people like third party feedback – it produces the most positive results! And yet, this shows clearly that self-collected feedback increases the usable, critical feedback by over 300%. The top-of-the-chart feedback is also reduced, helping clarify exactly where real value opportunities have been created in a more focused manner. Remember, the goal of feedback isn’t to get the best scores, but to find the best ways to actually get better.
The data shows an even more interesting trend – when electronic surveys are sent to a client by the person doing the work instead of by a third party, five times more free-form comments are added. Again, the more personal relationship invites more candid, open, and strategic responses. A score isn’t enough – the clients go one step further, investing more time in their reply, to really fine-tune the results and drive better performance. Even when they give a high score, corrective actions will be referenced in the comments – so even those who are most fearful of criticizing find a way to have their voice heard. Response rates are also higher with self-collected feedback versus third party (65% / 53% / 47%).
Which brings us back to where we started – what is the incentive for someone to reply to a feedback request? Ultimately, their only motivation is to have you do a better job for them. The more likely they feel the time spent providing feedback will actually help them, the more likely they are to provide honest, genuine, helpful information. The best person to do that, is you – the person doing the work.
Posted on August 5th, 2011 View Comments
Join us as we follow Koontz-Bryant, P.C. as they begin using client feedback to improve their business, culture, and overall prosperity. In the third installment, Martha Shotwell, Controller, describes the process of sending their first surveys, getting staff buy-in and how they put their first feedback responses to work. Read Journal Entry 1 and Journal Entry 2.
At our last report to you, Koontz-Bryant had gone through the system setup with our implementation consultant, and we had conducted a Lunch and Learn training session with staff. We were just beginning to send surveys to clients, but did not yet have results to share.
To jump-start our efforts with the Client Feedback Tool, Koontz-Bryant’s president, Greg Koontz, sent general satisfaction surveys to several dozen clients. These surveys were not tied to particular projects, but instead were designed to gauge clients’ overall impression of our company. To speed the process along, Greg used the Client Feedback Tool’s import feature to bring in contact and company information from Outlook. We were pleased with the results. His response rate was 42%, and feedback was very positive.
Of particular interest were the free-form comments people made. Where they mentioned a particular employee by name, we were quick to pass those compliments along. This gave us an opportunity to express appreciation to the employee, and to reinforce the idea that the surveys were a good thing. One of the comments related to the survey itself. Our client said, “I appreciate your use of the scale. It is a device I have not previously seen.”
One of the survey recipients was an institutional client for whom we have done many projects. Though we knew our relationship was a good one, this client gave us the highest mark on every measure, and added, “I will take a consultant like Koontz-Bryant any day and twice on Sundays.” This high praise spurred us to build a marketing piece about this institution and our work together, and we included a glowing client testimonial.
Getting individual project managers to send their surveys still seemed slow. As the “Firm Administrator,” I met with the practice leaders to identity barriers to cooperation. There seemed to be a bit of “decision paralysis” when it came to selecting the survey to use. The Client Feedback Tool has 96 survey templates, and we had inactivated about two thirds of them. However, there were still too many to choose from. We agreed that I would identify a few survey templates for general use.
Most of our project managers have begun to send surveys. However, we were stumped as to how to overcome the problem of a few people not getting on board. We talked with Mike Phillips at Design Facilitator about this. His emphatic advice was to go ahead and send surveys on their behalf. Regardless of whether the PMs “should” do these themselves, he reasoned, the important thing is to get the feedback, and not create a lot of organizational stress about it. When I offered to send surveys on behalf of a particular group leader, he was enthusiastic. We sat down with a billing register and he chose a batch of clients to survey. If PM participation lags, this is a technique we will use with other groups.
Though some of internal company surveys have shown us where we had opportunity for improvement, all of our client responses have been 4 (meets expectation) and above. At first blush this looks like wonderful news, but we do have some concern that we have “cherry-picked” the recipients. A low score, properly addressed, can be an opportunity to forge a strong bond with a client. As our PMs become more comfortable with the process, we will encourage them to send surveys encompassing the most difficult relationships, as well.
In our next update, we’ll share our experience with an onsite consultation visit by the DesignFacilitator staff.