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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our consultants will help you on your feedback journey.
Posted on February 14th, 2012 View Comments
It’s not hard to find people and organizations who believe that collecting feedback will help improve their outcomes. Most people understand the inherent value of maintaining a pulse on their clients, and those who want to take action are eager to start. But how? What processes work most quickly and simply to engage everyone in your organization? How do you introduce your employees to the ideas, gain buy-in, and begin training them on the tools and techniques you would like them to use?
A new client of ours recently crafted an excellent letter to their staff, and has kindly offered to share their experience with the Client Feedback Tool community. WK Dickson, an ENR 500 multidisciplinary consulting firm, began their engagement with a day of strategic planning to prepare a solid foundation. With that foundation identified, Kraig Kern, Director of Marketing, shared this letter with the firm:
As you know, we value our client relationships very highly. The root of our firm’s prosperity comes from clients who retain us year after year and trust us to do their work well. It is important not to take these relationships for granted, and to continuously improve our ability to meet their specific needs.
Think about a time in your own life where it was obvious that someone really understood your needs and did everything they could to fulfill them. It felt pretty good didn’t it? Now put yourself in your client’s shoes and imagine their reaction when you do more than they expect.
Every client is different, so we need to identify what project delivery methods and processes work best for each of them. While our firm standards create a good baseline for successful project delivery, we may need to adjust for some clients, project managers, and possibly for each unique project type. The only way to know for sure is to ask.
As of today you have been added as a participant to our new and innovative Client Feedback Tool. For now, only a few of us will manage the tool until we develop a more systematic approach that makes it easy for everyone to take part. We will also soon be scheduling training to teach you how to use this simple system to collect feedback quickly, easily, and consistently from your clients and others.
The Client Feedback Tool is easy to use, and only takes one minute to solicit feedback using the built-in templates and patented slider bar. In fact, some of you may have already experienced what it looks like after feedback was requested following the recent lunch and learn this week. If you would like to watch a short, 5-minute introduction video on the tool, please click here.
We are excited at this opportunity for each of us to grow personally and professionally; and as a firm improve our client relationships to create real and lasting value.
More details will follow in the coming weeks. In the meantime thank you in advance for your participation.
Kraig’s letter works well for a few key reasons. First, he opened with a vision – clearly and succinctly defining the objective and importance of the feedback initiative. He then follows with an encouraging note, appealing directly to the feelings we get when recognized for a job well done. Rather than focus on problem discovery (which is an important aspect of feedback), the initial impression focuses on the positive element, reducing fear and making feedback feel “safe” for everyone.
In the third paragraph, Kraig outlines the need to discover issues, again crafting the language in the positive – not looking for problems but seeking to adapt to the unique needs each client, project, or project type demands. Nothing here is scary or cause for concern.
When introducing the actual feedback process, Kraig outlines clear expectations for each employee, what has already occured, what will happen, and when they can expect to begin engaging with the tool. He again eases the burden on the employees, stating a select group will start it and work out the kinks. Simultaneously, scarcity and confidence are created. His team also provided a chance for all employees to try the system from the client perspective, by soliciting feedback on an unrelated training session. This simple technique exposed all employees to the tool in a simple, helpful way.
Appealing to the eager minds (and those who don’t like being surprised in a training session), Kraig offers an online video (available in our library) for those interested to view and learn more.
As a whole, this simple and short letter is easy to read, encourages staff, and builds confidence that the process will be easy, safe, and effective.
About WK Dickson:
WK Dickson is an ENR Top 500 multi-disciplined consulting firm specializing in community infrastructure solutions including: Transportation Planning & Design; Environmental and Water Resources Engineering; Urban Planning and Development; and Geospatial Technology. The firm has been headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina since 1929 and has grown to operate seven regional offices strategically located throughout the Southeastern United States.
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 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 September 29th, 2011 View Comments
Our research shows fewer than 15% of firms collect feedback regularly. Forrester researchers indicate fewer than 20% of firms take any action on the feedback they collect. These indicators suggest only 3% of firms have an effective process to both collect feedback and turn that feedback into action.
And yet, without action, collecting feedback is really a futile and useless activity. Turning feedback into action requires a framework and a process to support an effective, simple, feedback collection/response mechanism.
Our Client Feedback Tool captures and automates the entire feedback process, and is customized for professional services organizations. The latest release (v4.3) includes new, extended capabilities to confirm your feedback reactions were effective.
Feedback begins with the questions. We’ve designed each to be focused, specific, and concise in order to collect clear metrics. Survey designs must then collect an appropriate number of questions in a relevant manner, so that you only ask the right questions when needed – minimizing wasteful efforts. Your clients don’t have time to waste, so answering questions that provide them no tangible benefit ultimately discourages their participation.
When someone responds to a feedback request, action can only happen if someone is alerted to the results. Particularly for professional services firms, feedback works best in real-time. Immediately after someone responds, our feedback process alerts everyone who needs the alert, based on what kind of scores were provided. Don’t limit feedback to just the president or someone in marketing – action happens best when the people doing the work get the feedback.
Which brings us to the action. The people taking care of the client – those actually doing the work – must know what the feedback is before they can take any action on it. The Client Feedback Tool’s real-time alerts link your firm’s team members to the feedback they are responsible for. Upon reviewing the results, each person can document, within the tool, what their follow-up actions have been or should be. They may even respond to the client directly from the tool, tracking that response as part of the feedback record. By responding to the client (in any manner) and logging the response (using the tool), we have demonstrated an 83% reduction in further client-identified problems.
Now, in the latest version of the Client Feedback Tool, you can take this process one step further, completing the feedback cycle. Beneath each feedback response you can click one button which initiates another follow-up survey in the future. By linking these two surveys, you can track your progress and confirm that the actions taken to respond to a client have indeed been successful at better meeting client expectations.
Demonstrating this simple, systematic feedback process to existing and prospective clients is a great differentiator in the marketplace, and builds trust that you listen, respond, and confirm your processes are the best they can be for each client.
Posted on August 26th, 2011 View Comments
I stumbled across a fantastic video on the web today, that very creatively presents a new paradigm to motivate and incentivize your team – particularly creative types like those serving the architecture and engineering industry. Here’s the 10-minute video – it’s worth watching to the last second (and very cleverly presented – especially to visually minded people).
For those who don’t take the time to watch it – the presentation shows research focusing in on human behavior, and how incentives work to create better performance. The shocking revelation is that money doesn’t work as a primary motivator for creative professionals. While a fair and compensatory paycheck is required to maintain an employee’s good will, better performance comes not from higher pay, but from three key areas:
This corroborates research by PSMJ that people leave their jobs most often because their:
- Talents are not seen
- Contributions are not appreciated
- Growth is not supported
Feedback is a powerful driver to attack each of these six items head-on, and build tremendous value in the relationships between your firm and your staff.
Client Feedback enables everyone in the organization to collect feedback from the people around them. Clients can be internal or external. They can be the consumer of your service, or a provider of a service to you. Whatever your professional interactions are, maximizing each relationship’s performance promotes a sense of well-being and belonging that an employee will be reluctant to leave.
We’ve found most feedback (about 96%) is positive. This kind of reinforcement feels great! People regularly receiving feedback feel appreciated and valued over and over again. All of a sudden, they know where their talents are, and can proudly share their successes. Additionally, their managers have access to a library of great accolades from which to publicly acknowledge and reward employees. The rewards don’t have to be financial – the recognition and appreciation alone for a job well done creates a sense of purpose and mastery.
Of course, while 96% of feedback is positive, 4% highlights challenges. And here’s where your creative people can really shine. Given tools to uncover where problems lie, and access to the information so your staff can create solutions on their own, grants a great sense of autonomy and self-determination that is very satisfying. Your staff aren’t just great technical minds – they are great people – and they have ideas about how to solve people problems along with the technical issues of the projects they work on.
Given a good set of tools to track “client” perceptions, and to measure how your team performs relative to expectations, you can create an environment that is decidedly flexible, supportive, creative, rewarding, masterful and filled with purpose. Feedback enables your entire staff – from the receptionist to the corner offices – to be a part of something bigger; a contributor to a community in ways that are meaningful, fulfilling, and rewarding.
Incorporating feedback into your organization may prove to be a better incentive than simple dollars and cents. Explore our Client Feedback Tool to learn how we can help.
Posted on June 23rd, 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 second installment, Martha Shotwell, Controller, describes developing their feedback plan, training their staff and how they got started collecting client feedback. Read Part 1.
When Koontz-Bryant, P.C. decided to embark upon a program to collect regular client feedback, we had some questions about getting started. We knew that with the Client Feedback Tool we could jump in with already-written surveys, and that compilation of results was part of the program. But how would we get buy-in from staff? What was the best way to train? How would we introduce the surveys to our clients? As Mary Poppins tells her young charges, “Well begun is half done.” We felt that our success with the feedback program depended on a good roll-out.
One of the things we liked about the Client Feedback Tool was the implementation assistance that came along with it. As a starting point, DesignFacilitator presented an outline of implementation steps that included consultation, software setup, training, and review. A pre-consultation questionnaire got us thinking about details such as our goals for feedback collection; who would be in charge of implementation; who would request feedback, and how often; who would review results and how results would be used. With Ryan, our DesignFacilitator consultant, we scheduled some webinar meeting dates and got to work.
Two of us at Koontz-Bryant were charged with implementation. Our Controller would be the Firm Administrator and responsible for setup, and our COO would determine when surveys should go out, encourage staff participation, and assure appropriate follow-up. In our initial online consultation, Ryan talked with us about our company and staff structure, and our thoughts based on the pre-consultation questions. He helped us think through the feedback work flow, and shared some examples of what had worked with other firms. Ryan gave us a bit of homework and challenged us to come up with an assignment for the staff who would be using the Client Feedback Tool.
A week later, the real fun began. Our account went live and through an online meeting Ryan stepped us through the setup. He had already inserted our logo, and we selected colors for our firm branding settings. He showed us how to set up firm members and teams. Preference settings allowed us to determine default settings for notifications (what range of low/high scores should trigger an email alert?) and message defaults (messages sent to clients with the surveys). We learned how to use filters to narrow down the 96 pre-defined survey templates, and how to set up clients and projects. Over the next week, we completed setup of firm members and deactivated some of the survey templates.
Our next step was to train the staff. We scheduled a two-hour lunch and learn webinar for all office personnel. Koontz-Bryant management had been impressed with DesignFacilitator’s “Power of Feedback” presentation, so we asked Ryan to present a fair amount of that background material. He then walked staff through the program, guiding them through the steps of requesting feedback, reviewing results, and managing their personal preferences. An open discussion at the end allowed staff to ask questions. At the end of the session, we asked staff to send a survey to someone – client or internal. A few of the staff jumped right in and sent surveys to their coworkers, and a couple of people sent them to clients. However, some employees did not respond.
A few days after the training, we sent a survey to everyone who attended the lunch and learn, using a training template that was already pre-established in the Client Feedback Tool. Everyone had an opportunity to see the process from the client’s perspective. More important, we gathered valuable feedback about our training process. We learned that overall our training met or exceeded expectations, the food was great, and our consultant got high marks for responsiveness and quality of presentation. We also learned that:
- the staff was less interested in the “why” of collecting feedback than in the “how”;
- two hours was a bit too long, even though the first half-hour was lunch; by the time we got to the “how” people were mentally tired;
- most people could not see the details of the software projected on the screen.
For anyone going through the process, our recommendation is to focus more on the “how”, and to find a way to set people up at multiple computers so they can see the screens.
The Client Feedback Tool has a section for tracking followup. We followed up with each person who rated an area low, and recorded this activity in the software.
A few weeks after the training meeting, our president, Greg, met with project managers to establish specific points in a project’s life cycle at which a survey should be sent. To increase our momentum, he also sent initial surveys to a batch of top clients. Results are starting to come in.
In our next update, we look forward to sharing results with you.
Posted on June 6th, 2011 View Comments
Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning “change for the better.” Any LEAN organization, at one point or another, will run across this idea. Wikipedia summarizes nicely:
Kaizen is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work, and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot, eliminating waste in business processes. In all, the process suggests a humanized approach to workers and to increasing productivity: “The idea is to nurture the company’s human resources as much as it is to praise and encourage participation in kaizen activities.” Successful implementation requires “the participation of workers in the improvement.” People at all levels of an organization participate in kaizen, from the CEO down to janitorial staff, as well as external stakeholders when applicable.
Note the incredible focus on everyone in the organization, in a very human way, seeking means to improve. Just as important, Kaizen requires a systematic approach to test and measure efforts. Without a methodical system to monitor results, changes are often a shot in the dark, and real lasting change difficult to obtain.
Service businesses (architects, engineers, lawyers, etc) face even greater challenges realizing incremental improvements. The very nature of a professional service is a customized, solution-oriented approach to each unique project and client. Kaizen comes from manufacturing, where practitioners performed the same function repeatedly. In an assembly line one can easily measure widgets per hour, consistency of widget quality, and cost per widget – each of which monitors how changes to employee efforts affect production output.
Services are rarely so easily repeatable. In fact, the only thing “standard” about a “standard” project is that no project ever matches the standard process. And yet, while services firms may earnestly measure billings, schedule delivery, and quality of deliverables, they very rarely objectively measure the real delivery – client satisfaction.
Professional services, by nature, means we are servants. And while our “master” (the client) requests a product (technical drawing, constructed building, etc), what they really need is our help – our service.
To truly practice kaizen – and realize lasting continuous improvement in your professional services firm – you must measure how well your service delivery met the clients’ expectations. Gathering feedback objectively, consistently, and continuously will give you the real-time data needed to always get better. Employing a system that everyone (from the CEO to the janitor) can use allows everyone to get better.
DesignFacilitator’s Client Feedback Tool is the only tool built exclusively for this purpose in the professional services industry. Contact us to learn how this powerful and easy to use tool can help your “kaizen.” www.designfacilitator.com