Led by Chris Bradley and Tom Cole, Hoos is a small young architectural practice based in East London. It has the distinction of being the first to have used Listenback on real clients. I went along to find out how they are getting on.
Part of a new breed of architect, Hoos are receptive to fresh ideas not just in how they go about design but in how they go about business. Rather than hire in too many staff, for example, they prefer to collaborate with trusted partners, and they are busily productizing their professional knowledge by developing, manufacturing and selling their own garden cabin concept.
You can sense a backbone of gentle intelligence behind their friendly exterior. It is this that has kept them going through the inevitable ups and downs of getting started in a highly competitive market.
I met them back in November 2017 to persuade them of the merits of client feedback. They enthusiastically embraced the Listenback concept and started using its web-based client feedback tool almost straight away.
Although nervous of what would come back, their new feedback focus was a good excuse to remind past clients of Hoos’s existence. They approached about six with the Listenback feedback tool before Christmas.
Hoos knew that although the current incarnation of Listenback functions well, it is a prototype in need of real-world validation. It works like this:
- architects sign up for free, which gives them access to their own dashboard allowing them to monitor feedback.
- After adding their logo to the feedback tool, architects issue invitations from the website asking for feedback from their clients.
- On receiving their invitation, which arrives as an email, clients follow a link, paste in a unique password, and complete the feedback.
- Their ratings are automatically logged and displayed as percentage scores on the architect’s dashboard.
- A feedback tracker logs when the architect sent invitations, who he/she sent them to, which project it was for, and whether the client has responded.
I caught up with Chris over a good coffee to see what snags they’d encountered and how they’d got on.
Chris reported that the site is generally easy to use and straightforward. He had no trouble signing up, adding the Hoos logo to the feedback tool, issuing invitations, or tracking and seeing feedback as it came in.
He suggested some excellent ideas for improvements. Several were a surprise and have the potential to add extra value. As soon as the first round of user feedback is in, Listenback will be implementing them as far as possible.
Chris argued strongly that clients should have the facility to add comments with their feedback, a feature that is not currently part of the system. He felt that the possibility of capturing positive endorsements automatically in this way would be a real incentive to keep using the system, particularly for small businesses. Listenback agrees, and this will definitely be added to the tool in the next iteration.
Chris says that just thinking through the rationale for client feedback has changed the way Hoos goes about its business.
The penny dropped when they heard about the model underpinning Listenback, which arose from a couple of pieces of RIBA research that show that architects’ and clients’ priorities are misaligned. Grossly simplified, the model says that architects prioritize architecture, something that clashes with clients’ viewpoint, which is to prioritize money and risk, and, therefore, processes.
Since our first meeting when all this was discussed in detail, Hoos has taken time out to strategically re-evaluate their internal processes and do some training.
“What surprised me,” Chris says, “is quite how integral that awareness and commitment to processes is in how we communicate our offer externally. It is helping us in how we go about targeting and winning the work that we know we are capable of and are certain is out there, but which at times seems tantalisingly out of reach.”
And how has the client feedback been? A couple have not yet responded, but those who have all rated Hoos very highly. Where there was a dip, it turns out that it was on the factors which are most obviously process-driven.
Hoos is going to keep going with Listenback, building up to a critical mass of data that, they are convinced, will help to steer their business development.
As Chris says, “It will be invaluable proof of what’s working or not working. Having the data will provide the evidence to unlock what might otherwise come down to opinion and a battle of wills. Its importance should not be downplayed.”
We hope to collaborate on a full pilot to investigate the system’s overall impact. Watch this space!
If you want to participate in the benefits of client feedback, join Listenback for free today. It is a web-based client feedback benchmarking tool for UK architects.
We are currently looking for practices – listenbackers – willing to partner with us to test the tool’s use and functionality.
If you want to find out how the system works and why it might be important for your business, please get in touch with Matt Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org
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