Where Are We On Client Feedback Approaches?
post # 380 — May 23, 2007 — a Client Relations post
Along with hundreds of other consultants, I have advocated (literally for decades) that firms should have programs for systematic client feedback. However, these are not as simple to design and implement as one would like.
One thing that needs to get clarified right up-front is the purpose of getting client feedback. If it is a sincere effort at continuous improvement in quality and client satisfaction, then one would do different things than if it is a marketing exercise run by the marketing department (as it still is in some firms.)
As a third purpose, some firms try to design feedback systems to obtain input to the firmâ€™s compensation scheme. The problem with this is that instead of the positive â€œletâ€™s learnâ€ aura surrounding the scheme, the client feedback can quickly turn into a negative â€œgotchaâ€ system, perceived by the firmâ€™s people as adverse and something to be suspicious of.
There are lots of alternatives out there on how firms get client feedback. First, when is it done? Mid-engagement, or at the end? Doing it in the middle allows for course-correction, but influences, positively or negatively, the engagement relationship itself.
Second, thereâ€™s the question of who obtains the feedback. Is it the lead service provider on the assignment? The marketing director? A third-party research firm? Retired partners/ senior executives?
Third is the question of coverage: do you try to get feedback on all work or just a sample? (The answer to this one depends on your purpose, of course. If youâ€™re trying to use it as input to a compensation scheme, then you probably need broad coverage.)
Finally, there is the question of the medium you use to contact clients and get the feedback. Among the choices are personal visits, phone calls, on-line surveys, e-mails, mailed questionnaires.
My question to all of you out there is: whatâ€™s the state of play in 2007? Are firms having success with different kinds of client feedback approaches than they did in previous years?