Client Feedback Tool
  • Is yours a team of generalists or specialists? Why it matters.

    Posted on October 15th, 2015 Sally Orcutt No comments
    Is yours a team of generalists or specialists? Why it matters.

     

    A problem that our A/E industry shares with the other white-collar service professions, we don’t always optimize our most important asset: our people.

    I know you’ve heard this before, but do me a favor – keep reading.

    As leaders we have a sense of what to do intuitively. The challenge is we often lack the specialized tools and processes to put our people into their optimum roles or give them the training and support they need to be most productive.

    There is good news. Recent studies and surveys show that while most managers do not think that their firm’s current processes and approaches to improving performance of teams are very effective; they still think that approaches that are customized to the specific skill-set of each team member are best.

    Create strong teamsSo, we all agree training each individual to do what comes naturally to them gives us the strongest teams. And when it comes to managing clients and managing production, understanding what piece of the puzzle each person brings to the team creates a team of specialists that excel at the work they provide your clients.

    I want to invite you to attend my seminar this December at the PSMJ Industry Summit and if you register before November 9th, receive a $100 registration credit. Here is a quick link to some highlights I will be sharing in December.

    In addition to all the valuable networking and excellent speakers you will hear at this year’s Summit, when you attend my seminar you will see the latest strategies used to create high performance teams.  Through these specialized strategies, I will show you how to enhance job satisfaction by letting (and helping) each person do what they naturally do best. I will also share first-hand experience of how our firm “turned the ship” and used these methods to make us a stronger, more profitable firm while improving the performance and satisfaction of our team members.

    1. Seminar Includes the Following Strategies:
    2. Understanding the four major skill-sets in the A/E industry
    3. How to identify the skill-set profile for each of your team members
    4. Setting team member assignments by their profile type
    5. Enhancing cooperative interaction between types
    6. Fine-tuning feedback for each profile type
    7. Identifying the optimum training for each team member

    While certainly of interest to firm leaders and managers whose role is to improve the performance of their firm’s teams, this seminar will contain information very helpful to anyone growing towards a leadership position or who wants to help their firm succeed.

    I look forward to seeing you at the 2015 PSMJ Industry Summit! When you register, use Promo Code CFT to save $100.

  • 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.

  • Feedback – The Best Return On Your Investment

    Posted on October 28th, 2010 No comments
    Feedback - The Best Return On Your Investment

    Feedback provides incredible returns on investment.  Simply asking for an evaluation of how your processes work for a client takes two minutes – but the information provided gives you valuable data to assure effective, successful projects.

    If you make the leap to a holistic feedback platform like our Client Feedback Tool, the systematic approach of continuous improvement pays even higher returns. Based on our research, we’ve listed several  benefits a $10 million/year firm may see. If your firm is larger or smaller, simply multiply accordingly to estimate your returns.
    • Identify your top 10% most loyal clients.  Which clients have told you they value you most?  Convert this discovered value into increased billings, increasing fees by 3% to your top-rating clients.  For our $10 million example firm, this translates into roughly $30k in additional profit each year.
    • Reduce wasted efforts by 5%.  The New York Times bestselling book “Crucial Conversations” outlines research conducted by the authors regarding the importance of effectively discovering and dealing with crucial conversations.  According to the study, every crucial conversation avoided costs an average of $1,500 and a full workday of wasted effort.  According to XL Insurance liability insurers, this wasted effort accounts for 6% of a firm’s revenue.  6% of revenue as wasted effort, reduced 5%, saves a $10 million firm over $30k yearly.
    • Retain one client on the “bubble.” One-third of our subscribers came to us after losing a major client.  In every case, these firms were surprised by the defection, and realized they were blind to a pattern of problems the client never brought to light.  Frequent feedback greatly reduces the chances of this happening.  According to PSMJ Resources, AEC firms spend four times more money replacing a client than the costs of retaining one.  Even if you replace the lost revenue of a departed client, the added cost of winning a new client typically exceeds $22k.
    • Reduce key staff departure by 5%. PSMJ Resources again reports that replacing your best staff costs in excess of $100k per departure.  Most key staff leave not for better salary, but because they feel unappreciated, unvalued, and that their growth is not supported.  Quantitative feedback gives you the tools and information to recognize performance.  In fact,  your clients will be doing this directly.  Using our system, clients indicate performance is “Exceptional” 22% of the time.  This satisfying work environment will help retain (and identify) your best people, saving an average of $67k each year.
    • Increase marketing efficiency by 3%.  The average firm spends 11% of their revenue marketing, while only seeing 25% of pursued work turn into commissions.  Client feedback informs you of your market successes, and identifies where your strengths are.  By marketing your strengths to your best market sectors, results will increase and you’ll waste less pursuing work that doesn’t match your firm’s core services.  Even a 3% increase in efficiency will save a $10 million firm over $33k a year.
    • Reduce the size and frequency of loss claims by 10%.  XL Insurance professional liability insurers found the typical firms spends about 2% of their revenue defending loss claims – time spent not billing, gathering evidence, lost credibility – etc.  Even though your insurer tends to cover actual losses, you’ll spend hours of effort in your defense – rather than billing on a project.  Randy Lewis, Loss Prevention and Client Education at XL Insurance, states: “I have seen few better ways to reduce the size and frequency of loss claims as your Client Feedback Tool.”  Savings here add up to more than $22k annually.
    • Save on liability insurance.  XL Insurance has a program, the Loss Prevention Improvement Project, by which you can implement a plan to reduce liability.  Firms have used our Client Feedback Tool as the foundation for this, providing a 10% credit for their premium.  A $10 million firm, depending on project types, will see about $8k  in credits.

    Adding this all up, a $10 million firm may see over $210,000 in value added or money saved from effectively leveraging client feedback.  Regardless of revenue, the typical firm will increase profits 13% applying these simple tools and strategies.

    Feedback is easy with a simple and powerful system like The Client Feedback Tool.  Two minutes of use brings immediate and measurable results.

  • 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.

  • That’s Why I Value You

    Posted on September 18th, 2010 No comments
    That's Why I Value You

    I recently accompanied an architect on a visit to a renovation project, to meet with his client.  As we walked around the building discussing options for what do, the architect stopped and picked up a gum wrapper – without a hitch in the conversation.  As we walked past the next trash receptacle, he threw the wrapper away.  Later, on the other side of the building, he did the same thing with a cigarette butt.

    The architect never said anything or made a show of what he did.  Just very subtly “cleaned up” when he saw something needing attention.  At the time, I didn’t really think anything of it.

    Later, he gathered feedback from the client using our Client Feedback Tool, and one of the comments said this:

    Thanks for taking care of my building.  You even stopped to pick up trash.  That’s not what I am hiring you to do, but it showed me you really care.  Thanks for going the extra mile, and looking for ways to make the project better.

    When I talked to the architect later about this feedback, he shared:  “That’s why I do these things.  I always look for ways to improve what my clients hire me to work on.  Even things that aren’t in my scope of work – if I can identify an area where I can help, it creates more value.  It helps me become my client’s expert.”

    You may be doing a dozen little extra things for your clients that you aren’t even aware of how much value they bring.  How do you identify which pack the most punch?  As you think of new ways to help and add value, are you measuring the results to confirm the extra efforts are creating additional success?

    Start looking for ways to help – even little ones – then ask for feedback.  You may be amazed at the results, and the added value you create with your clients.

  • Incoming! It’s a Feedback Grenade!

    Posted on June 29th, 2010 No comments
    Incoming!  It's a Feedback Grenade!

    I had my car in for some work last week.  The shop, as innovative and forward-thinking as they are, actually have a feedback system in place.  I was delighted to see a service business taking feedback seriously.  I was so impressed, I even took a picture of their system!

    Take a Number

    Is this what your feedback program looks like?

    How does this make you feel as a client?

    More importantly, is this the message you give to your clients when they provide feedback?  Research indicates the overwhelming majority of professional services firms (architects, engineers, lawyers, etc) do not solicit feedback from their clients.   And yet, feedback is critical to your ability to serve, keep, and profit from your clients.

    Some clients are bold enough to provide feedback, at least once, even if you don’t ask for it.  Your response, though, will dictate exactly how much more feedback you will get from them.  When you get feedback, are you the grenade?  Do you get defensive and start spreading blame like shrapnel in all directions?  If lodging a complaint (or even giving constructive criticism)  feels like pulling the pin on this example to the right, how many clients are going to keep on complaining?

    While we all want our clients to stop complaining or criticizing, making them afraid to do so will only further the speed at which they take their projects (and corresponding fees) somewhere else.  Rather, we want more feedback – in the form of praise!  Now you can turn clients into allies – loyal consumers of your services, and champions of yours when referrals are requested.

    Here are three fairly basic approaches to help you become adept at avoiding shrapnel, and encourage your clients to give you more feedback.

    1. Respond without reacting.  When criticism comes in, realize it’s not personal, but really just information.  Your client is training you to help him better.  I know it sometimes feels like an attack on you, your character, and your self-worth.  It’s not.  Feedback is always more about who’s giving the feedback than who it’s about.  Understand what your client is trying to accomplish with this information.   He’s got a problem, he hired you to help him with it, and now there’s another problem to deal with.  Instead of trying to explain how it’s not your fault, be very interested in his problem, and how you can fix it.  “Oh, wow.  That does sound like a problem.  How can I help you fix that?  Is there anything else we can do to avoid going down this road again?”  If there are other people involved, and you are the one that takes this approach, you’ve just risen above the crowd and earned a huge dose of respect from the client (and probably your peers too).
    2. Focus on the process not the people. People don’t intend to screw up.  When stuff goes awry, look at the process used.  If you focus on the people involved, the conversation turns to blame.  The best that can happen here is someone else gets to “pay” for the problem.   This builds conflict between you, your team, and your client.  Conflict is not healthy when trying to build effective processes.  If instead, talk about the process that resulted in the undesirable outcome, and cement your role as the leader steering the team (regardless of what your business card title says).  By pointing fingers at a process – which is emotionless and easy to adjust, you don’t have to try to change people.  A process can be documented, explained, understood, and modified on the fly to produce different results.  Draw the process on a white board with everyone involved.  Act as the recorder, asking which processes work best for each person, and build consensus on a client-focused plan.  If the client designs the process, he will take more ownership of the results.  More importantly, you’ve again been trained as his expert – worth a premium price so he doesn’t have to deal with this again with someone else.
    3. Ask for feedback often!  When your clients see you as a grenade, ready to explode, they are less likely to train you to expert status.  But, asking for feedback in a soft, friendly, comfortable manner will diffuse challenging situations before they get big.  You will create a feedback habit with your clients, and they will be much more engaged in helping you help them.  It’s their process now too, so they want it to succeed.  Follow up to check on how changes to your service are working, measure the results, and adjust your course when needed.

    Over time, you will build a level of trust, loyalty, and expertise with your clients that no other professional will be able to match.  Now you can be “the guy” he goes to.  You can charge a fee that’s great for you, for a service that’s great for him.  Even better, no one has to pick shrapnel out of their hides.

  • If You Already Know the Answer, Don’t Ask the Question

    Posted on July 27th, 2009 Matt 2 comments

    I’ve already written once about the survey methods of the car dealerships/manufacturers (see Blog Entry “What Did You Expect?“) but I have to bring it up again. To keep from distracting you with my particular choice in a car, let’s just call it a Yugo.If You Already Know, Don't Ask the Question

    This time, the manufacturer sent me an email with a subject line “Please share your thoughts on your new Yugo GV.” This subject shows that the sender knows exactly who I am and what I have purchased. Yet, they proceeded to ask which features I have on the vehicle, what type of vehicle it is, the cost of the vehicle, and how I financed it. They also asked me for the total number of men, women and children in the household. After I selected “1” the survey still asked me to indicate the number of: children under 6, children 6-12, and children 13-17. Didn’t I just answer that?

    My point is not just to rant (though I do enjoy ranting), but to point out that people collecting feedback sometimes ask questions that they already know the answer to. This comes across to clients as though you do not value their time and you don’t care enough to consider the information you already have before asking more questions. Let your clients know that their time and feedback is important to you by asking only relevant, specific questions.  Ideally, their answers will provide valuable new information you can use to improve your service to that very client.  Isn’t that why we ask for feedback in the first place?

  • Mike Phillips to present webinar with Axium on April 9th

    Posted on April 6th, 2009 Matt 2 comments

    April 9, 2009
    10:00 am Pacific Time

    Axium’s Best Practices Webinar Series, presents Mike Phillips

    Client Feedback: Learn Simple Ways to Enhance your Firm

    This program illustrates how a design firm can create a simple system to collect and incorporate client feedback. Utilizing six key principles, this system builds real value for your firm by fine-tuning your process to better meet your client’s needs. Learn to use client feedback to reduce problems, increase performance and improve profitability.

    Improvements for designers include:

    • increased value to their client
    • reduced wasted time & effort
    • enhanced professional satisfaction
    • reduced mistakes & project liability