There’s lots of hype about the business virtues of client feedback, but is it worth it?
Maybe you’ve dabbled with it in the past, or still do it to tick some ISO 9001 boxes. You’re left with a handful of comments made by a few clients, but have no idea what you’re meant to do with them.
It begins to look like a waste of time and money, especially if you’ve hired an expensive third party consultant to do it for you.
If this is your experience, you’d be forgiven for giving up on it. But to do so is to ignore low hanging fruit. There are countless wins to be had from client feedback, provided you are willing to pick them up.
Time to reboot your approach. For a better return on investment, follow these Listenback rules of client feedback.
1. Do it the right way
Don’t ask for feedback out of the blue. If your clients are surprised when you ask for feedback, you’ve set out on the wrong foot.
Promote yourself as a ‘listening’ practice.
At your first meeting with your client, explain that you are committed to continuous improvement and to making their experience with you as good as it can be.
(Be careful to manage expectations: ‘as good as it can be’ is not the same as ‘doing work for free’ or ‘compromising your professional integrity’.)
Immediate project-related feedback needs focused, detailed face-to-face attention between senior people who know the project intimately. While critical, this kind of project management feedback is a separate issue. We’re talking about feedback that generates benchmarking and business development data.
Benchmarking feedback is of less pressing concern to your clients. You want their good will, so don’t waste their time. The online Listenback tool, for example, has deliberately kept its questions short and stuck to plain English. It’s web-based tool is easy to use.
And asking clients to rate the extent to which they agree with statements on simple Likert scales keeps the whole exercise as quick as possible. A few clicks and a maximum of a couple of minutes later, the Listenback process is complete.
2. Do it at the right time
Don’t wait until after the end of the project. By then the client has moved on. Not only is their attention elsewhere but there is little benefit for them in responding. Indeed, they might resent that you waited until now to ask, especially if they think that it was needed during those months that you worked together.
Instead, Listenback recommends that you do it during projects, at stage milestones, or at some other mutually agreed intervals. That way, the client is impressed that you are invested in them and are actively seeking to make the process as smooth as possible. More importantly, they stand to enjoy the benefit of any consequential adjustments you make.
3. Ask the right questions
Requests for feedback should provoke criticism.
Resist the temptation to ask benchmarking questions on factors that matter only to you. If all you are after is a pat on the back, ask about the aesthetic and functional qualities of your built designs. This is bound to provoke nice comments, but otherwise has limited value.
It’s not that clients don’t care about the architecture, it’s just that they take it for granted from architects. That’s why they hire you rather than a plan-drawer.
Much rarer are architects who are also good at the other stuff – project management, cost control, viability, value and the soft skills of empathy, teamwork, good communication, and collaboration. These are precisely the factors that matter to clients and where they see inconsistency in architects’ professional offer.
Listenback has distilled the critical, generic issues and set them out in its benchmarking client feedback tool. Sign up to have a look at them: it’s free.
4. Do it constantly
One set of feedback per client per project just won’t cut it. The value only appears after you have a critical mass of data and can observe trends in those data. For that you need regular and frequent ongoing feedback. This is yet another reason to use Listenback’s quick and easy system – it works for all clients, at all stages, allowing you to compare performance over time.
5. Act on the feedback
Research shows that even if you do nothing with your benchmarking data, the simple act of having asked for it tends to make clients rate you more highly. So, in theory you can rest on your laurels at this point because you’ve already increased your chances of positive referrals and repeat business.
The smart architect will not want to stop there, though. They will want to turn the data into useful intelligence and act on it. The benefits of doing so are far-reaching. While each datum by itself might not tell you anything, hundreds of data aggregated over time from all projects and all your clients is revealing. See the Listenback blog explaining its full potential.
6. Show the feedback to the whole team
Listenback feedback is useful to all sizes and kinds of practice. Explain the purpose to your entire team and share the results with them.
Not only will tracking performance motivate staff, it will emphasize the factors that matter to clients, turning your staff into your best sales force. Also, professionals like the challenge of proving themselves. An overt culture of seeking client feedback will attract talent.
Listenback is a web-based client feedback benchmarking tool and consultancy for UK architects. We are currently looking for practices willing to partner with us to test the tool’s use and functionality.
If you are interested in participating, please get in touch with Matt Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org
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