Client Feedback Tool
  • Client Success Story: Building Relational Equity

    Posted on January 21st, 2016 Ryan Suydam No comments

    Mike Pierce at The Austin Company writes about the concept of Building Relational Equity. This is a must read piece for anyone serious about understanding and improving client relationships.

    Please comment below – what are your experiences building (or losing) relational equity?


  • 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.



  • Who Should Be Asking For Feedback?

    Posted on October 21st, 2011 No comments
    Who Should Be Asking For Feedback?

    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:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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!

    Feedback Comparison

    Click to see larger view

    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:

    1. Peer Feedback
    2. Self Collected Client Feedback
    3. 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.

  • Feedback – Is Your Goal High Scores, or Better Service?

    Posted on February 24th, 2011 No comments
    Feedback - Is Your Goal High Scores, or Better Service?

    Getting rave reviews from your clients feels great!  We all enjoy positive feedback, particularly from those you work with closely.  However, when designing a feedback process to stay in tune with your clients, too many organizations make the mistake of seeking high scores, rather than actionable information.

    If 90% of your feedback comes with top ratings, you may have some great marketing statistics.   But, you really haven’t collected data that lets you improve.  If almost all your scores are at the top of the scale, you have no way to differentiate which clients are most loyal, and place the highest value on your services.  You have no means to capture when something worked especially well, compared to your typical (and still effective) process.

    With our Client Feedback Tool, we invested years of research into our patent-pending answering system, based on a self-centering “Met Expectations” sliding scale.  While our system provides the same percentage of “low” scores (~4%), only 16% of results fall in the top score category.  It’s this downward shift that gives you 400% more information with which to make decisions and improvements.  In the cases where you receive “Exceptional” feedback, you can now identify clients that valued your services much more than normal.  You can begin to see trends about what sets these situations apart.  Once you identify the contributors to these high scores, you can work them into your “typical” processes, enhancing value for all clients.

    Suddenly, your high scores give you an opportunity to improve, just as much as your low scores do.

    90% thumbs up feels good, but dramatically reduces the useful information you have.  

    To learn more about our answer scale and how it works, contact us to schedule a demonstration.

  • Doing Feedback – Really

    Posted on November 5th, 2010 No comments
    Doing Feedback - Really

    It’s not enough to talk about feedback.  You need a plan.

    Feedback is perhaps the simplest, most effective way to dramatically enhance the quality of your firm’s projects and client relationships.  But “doing feedback” seems to be so hard to make happen.

    Mel Lester, at The Business Edge, blogged about the “Knowing-Doing” gap over at his excellent E-Quip blog.  Take the 5 minutes to read that post, then come back to join us.

    Mel pinpoints several reasons why firms fail to affect change in their organizations, and actually improve strategic areas (like client relationships).  Knowing that feedback is important isn’t enough.  You have to make doing feedback something everyone in your firm does.

    A simple and powerful tool like our Client Feedback Tool provides an easy way to track feedback, measure results, and make sure feedback is happening.  But having a tool and keeping it in the toolbox doesn’t help.   Possessing a wrench doesn’t make you a mechanic.  Fixing a car does.

    Fortunately, doing feedback doesn’t have to be as hard as rebuilding an engine.  The Client Feedback Tool allows anyone to get feedback, from anyone, any time.  Focus first on creating a positive feedback environment, and build a cultural support for it.  There’s no such thing as bad feedback.  If you find people are fearful to ask for feedback from clients; or feel they don’t have access to clients – then focus instead on just getting feedback.

    Set a goal.  Perhaps everyone should get feedback once a week.  Sound like a lot?  How many different people do your employees interact with in a year?  If they got feedback from peers, clients, vendors, managers, subordinates  – anyone they work with – they could probably find at least 25 different people in a year.  That’s asking each person only twice a year for feedback.

    To get started, let them decide who to ask; just require that they do ask at a certain rate.  Track how often people ask for feedback – make that the measuring point starting out.  It’s easy to manage, clearly defined, and will give a broad dose of constructive input to each employee.

    After several months of gathering feedback, your teams should be comfortable with the idea.  In fact, most will have experienced many successes.  Praise and reward these successes.  Support the challenges and make a safe environment for identifying areas to improve.

    Now that you have a culture of feedback awareness, you can focus on more specific goals with your feedback program.  Direct more feedback towards clients in a systematic, phased approach.  Leverage feedback to identify training needs, or to promote effective leaders.  Incorporate feedback into more specific, broader quality assurance systems.  Whatever your long-range goals are, they’ll be easily achieved once you have the feedback engine running.

    The point is to start with something easy to measure, that will quickly effect behavior.  Getting your team used to just asking is a great first step.

  • Succeeding Isn’t Cheating

    Posted on September 29th, 2010 3 comments
    Succeeding Isn't Cheating

    Do you ever wish for an easy way to be better than the competition?  How about an ethical way to “cheat” your way to being the best?

    I had a great conversation about client feedback with Lee Frederiksen, Managing Partner at Hinge Marketing.  Lee is a behavioral psychologist by education, and has helped many architects, engineers, and other professional services firms engage their clients to build their brand and markets.  During our conversation, he was reminded of a story where one group within an organization was accused of “cheating” because they kept winning performance awards.   You can read the whole story on Hinge’s Blog.  I’ve excerpted below:

    As it turns out, [the winning group] had simply adopted the practice of handing out a rating form each time they performed a service and encouraging the recipient to fill it out. This simple practice had an amazing effect. It turned an intermittent system of feedback into one that provided almost continuous feedback to the professional providing the support. In short, they knew that each interaction counted. They suddenly became more “helpful” and it showed in their evaluation ratings.

    What happened is a typical result of what we’ve seen with our clients who deploy our Client Feedback Tool within their organization.  By engaging everyone in the process of collecting feedback, everyone becomes more aware of their performance – knowing it will be measured.  By collecting feedback from clients during projects (not just after they’re done), those doing the work naturally begin to perform better for clients.

    Feedback works to change performance. Decades of well-controlled behavioral research clearly shows that it does so under the right conditions. For example, feedback has to be frequent, timely, and objective.

    So, how do you “cheat” and become better than your competitors in an unfair way?  It’s really pretty easy.  Collect feedback when you can do something about it (i.e., before the project is over).  Get feedback as soon as you’ve just performed some work, while memory of it is fresh.  Ask questions that are specific and focused on what was just delivered.  Most importantly, have the people doing the work ask for the feedback!  This is the quickest way to assure each person working for your clients is focused on the clients’ needs, and aware of his performance.

    When you have an entire firm of client-focused professionals, working to meet each client’s specific needs, there will be no contest between you and the competition.

  • Feedback, Trust, and Anonymity

    Posted on September 1st, 2010 No comments
    Feedback, Trust, and Anonymity

    One of my guilty pleasures is making sure I catch Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon every morning.  Today’s is genius (at least, for those of us in the business of feedback).  In three panes, Adams succinctly captures the challenges and pitfalls of so many efforts to collect feedback.

    Scott Adams' Dilbert - Anonymous Feedback

    Anonymous surveys that collect demographic or statistical information can be very useful.  However, surveys collecting feedback – particularly when that feedback about a service – are challenged greatly when attempted anonymously.

    Fundamentally, the goal of collecting feedback is to understand his unique preferences and adjust your processes to fit his style accordingly.  Feedback of this nature is inherently personal and unique.  Providing a service (whether it be managing employees like the Pointy Haired Boss, or providing engineering expertise to a client) is not just a technical proposition.  Services are provided by people to people.  And since we’re all different and have individual preferences and approaches, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology.

    Understanding this concept unveils the first challenge of anonymous feedback.  When no name is attached to the feedback, it can’t directly benefit the respondent.   When you receive anonymous feedback, and 99 out of 100 people love the way you do something, how much effect does the one dissenter have on your approach?  You aren’t going to change everything for one person.  However, if you knew who that one person was, you could adjust the process just for him (assuming it made business sense to do so).

    Secondly, anonymous feedback demonstrates real challenges with trust.  The respondent can’t trust you to actually do anything about the feedback given (because, after all, you don’t know who gave it).  Or, he doesn’t trust the actual anonymity of the feedback.  With all the tracking and tricks of technology today, how often do you really believe your anonymous feedback is truly a secret?  Worse, what if you ask for feedback anonymously, and (without trying to) you figure out who gave challenging information.  Now, you really want to respond, and fix the problem – but doing so is going to violate the “trust” you offered the client by offering an anonymous survey in the first place.

    But what about the good anonymity provides?  Won’t my clients be more honest?

    Actually, you can get great, honest feedback, and get more of it – if the right person asks the right questions – to the right person at the right time.  Therein lies the challenge of building a great feedback process.  The most important aspect of collecting feedback from clients is to be sure the feedback is about the client – not about you.  If you collect feedback  in a manner that unveils the client’s preferences, and you respond by specifically helping the client more according to his expectations, trust is created.  When you prove to the client that feedback matters, and that you act upon it, there is no need for anonymity to get honest feedback.

    That is the paradigm where the healthiest relationships are developed and were lasting client loyalty is built.

  • The Feedback Attitude

    Posted on January 12th, 2010 2 comments
    The Feedback Attitude

    A friend of a friend found me on LinkedIn and passed along a resume, looking for a position as a web designer.  While we weren’t hiring for that position, I took a look at the resume.  To be quite candid, it was pretty awful.

    I’m in the business of feedback, so I replied with some friendly but strong criticism.  I offered it as feedback – information to be processed, with no intent to hurt or offend.  I took time to highlight some of the good points, but spent most of my words identifying problem areas.   The reply I received could have been one of indignation, defensiveness, anger, or any other counter-productive reaction.  Instead, I got probably the best response I could have.

    Ouch!  But thank you! 🙂

    That’s the subject line of the email I received in reply.  What a great response!  In four words, two punctuation marks, and an emoticon this young woman managed to set the entire mood for our (still ongoing) dialog.  She accepted that challenges in her work exist, and acknowledged the effort (and even pain) needed to fix them.  She expressed honest gratitude for identifying issues for her to work on.  She also set a tone of friendly collaboration – probably the most important reaction to have when receiving tough feedback.  Before reading her response, I knew she was open to ideas, and willing to work with me to improve.

    I appreciate your feed back and will work on it…

    If you still want to help me organize my resume, etc, I am all ears….

    Thanks for the insight.  I know you are right, I think I need someone to literally get in my face and prove it, instead of sugar coating it like people have been.

    Within the email, she again thanked me for feedback.  Instead of defending why she did things her way, opened the door to further feedback, correction, and adjustment.

    Not only has she set a tone of collaboration, but she also diffused any fear or anxiety on my part about giving feedback.  Since I had never met this woman before, it took quite a bit of courage to provide feedback.  I really wanted to help, but also wanted to avoid hurting her feelings, or causing her any more anxiety when she’s already out of work.  Instead, her reply opened the door wide open to mutually honest communication.  What I thought would be a one-time note with some suggestions turned into a week-long exercise to build a great resume.   I have been able to share my opinions openly and without fear of reprisal.

    Now, I feel invested in this woman’s success.  I want to be a part of that.  Why?  Because her resume, and by extension, her process of finding a job, is now a part of me and my process.  I feel some ownership of what she’s built, and thus I feel connected by proxy to her eventual employment (and success).

    When your clients give you feedback, they earn the same kind of ownership.  Engage a client who has given you feedback with a proactive, collaborative, and kind attitude and you will tend to get more feedback!  As you work with your client to tweak the processes and methods used to deliver services, these revised methods become your clients methods too.  He becomes invested, not just financially, but at a deeper level as well.  No one wants to see their own work or efforts fail.  It’s natural to want to win, to be right, and to succeed.  The more you can adopt processes and methods that match your clients preferences, the more he will want you to succeed.  Your success becomes his success.

    Can you imagine a business where all your clients want you to succeed?  Where your clients are your biggest advocates?  Imagine what this attitude shift will bring when it’s time to send invoices, or raise your fee structure, or request a contract addendum for additional services or a change order.  Instead of arm wrestling over details, you have a client engaged with you on a deeper level.  And since he was fundamentally a part of the process that created the need for billings, your ability to recover fair and rewarding compensation is secure.

    Ask for feedback!  Then respond openly and engage your clients in the solutions that follow.  Mutual success is not far behind.

    As for the resume, it has gone from something that would very quickly hit my recycle bin, to something I would even pass along – not because of her skills or experience, but because of the process she used to improve.  That’s the kind of person I want to work with.

  • 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!

  • Axium Webinar featuring Mike Phillips – Client Feedback

    Posted on July 8th, 2009 Matt 2 comments

    On April 9, 2009 Mike Phillips presented industry best practices webinar for Axium entitled Client Feedback: Learn Simple Ways to Enhance Your Firm.  This program illustrated how a design firm can create a simple system to collect and incorporate client feedback. View a preview clip of the presentation below:

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    To view the webinar in its entirety, visit Axium’s Resource Center