Guest post by Kait LeDonne
For any of you who have sat on a call with a customer service rep, you’ve probably had at least one experience where a pleasant automated voice asks you to remain on the line after for a few questions about the company’s quality of service.
While I typically never stay on the line to do this, there’s something to say for asking customers for honest feedback regarding performance, and, admittedly, it’s a new concept I’m trying on in my business.
By adding a feedback system to my client engagements, I’ve learned a lot—both about myself and about implementing feedback systems in general.
In this article, my aim is to share my candid experiences on why I’ve found it so valuable, and how you can go about collecting valuable data that will make your business 10x stronger.
1. It gives you a chance to expand your comfort zone.
I won’t lie, the first time I had a client fill out my satisfaction survey, I was a bit nervous to open the page. I scrolled through quickly to see if it was mostly blues (positive), mostly yellows (ok, but needs improvement), or mostly reds (needs lot of improvement) before I actually read the answers.
Look, it takes something to ask your clients for candid feedback about how effective you are, especially when you’re a one-person business and the only person to “criticize” is yourself. However, after I scrolled through and exhaled, I felt proud. As humans, we avoid hearing something is “wrong with us” or that “we need to be fixed” at any cost. But opening yourself up to someone’s perspective, and seeing yourself through their eyes can be incredibly powerful, and you should commend yourself for being vulnerable enough to hear feedback.
2. It shows your clients you care.
To ask a client to rate your effectiveness as a consultant is to say to your client, “I care about you. I care about what you got out of this engagement. It MATTERS to me that you derived value out of the service I provided.”
3. You get to grow.
Stagnation= death in business. Always be learning, always be growing. The best way to do that is by seeking feedback from clients who represent the segment of the market you want to serve. This is like free market research. Take advantage of it.
When you open your own business and shift from employee to entrepreneur, you no longer receive regularly scheduled performance reviews. As much as you may enjoy no longer having your boss rate you on a 1-10 point scale, the fact of the matter is that evaluations exist for a reason—so you can grow as an employee.
As a business owner, your customers are your bosses (they pay the bills) and you are there to serve them. They are THE BEST people to have performance evaluations with. Empower them to do so.
1. Don’t call it a “client satisfaction survey”
You sound like those dry automated telephone operators I described at the beginning of this article. Make sure the client views it as an opportunity for them. I call mine “Client Completion Calls” and describe it as “An opportunity to ensure you’re satisfied with the results of your engagement.” This way, your clients don’t view this as “optional” and something nice to do for you, but rather a critical final step to ensure they are happy with their engagement.
2. Schedule it proactively.
I’ve empowered my assistant to start scheduling these calls at the beginning of an engagement. This way, it’s not something she or I have to remember to follow up with a client about. It is not a nice afterthought, it is a mandatory phase of each engagement and, as such, is scheduled like any other meeting.
3. Do it over the phone.
I created my feedback form using Google Forms. While I could simply send the link to the client and rely on them to fill it out, I have my assistant actually schedule a call, read them the questions, and record their answers. This way, I don’t have to nag them to fill it out, they have a platform to ask questions if they are confused, and it shows that I take this survey VERY seriously. A note: I would feel a bit awkward conducting these calls myself, as I feel my clients may not be brutally honest if I’m the one asking the questions about myself.
4. After the call, surprise them with something.
If your feedback survey is the final step of an engagement, then you have the opportunity to thank them after with a nice bonus. I like to surprise my clients with a thank you email and a free 15-minute consultation. You may find a handwritten thank you note and a copy of your favorite business book is the perfect close to the engagement. By thanking and surprising your clients, you beautifully set the stage for continued work and for client referrals.
While asking for feedback may seem obvious, I’m surprised to hear how many B2B service-based firms and consultants don’t have it as a critical component in their business. As someone who is new to taking it on as well, I can tell you, it’s an invaluable opportunity.
One last thing I want to say. If you, like me, tend to be a perfectionist and get down on yourself when you hear you’ve made even one misstep, don’t let this discourage you from taking this practice on. There is power in hearing how you occur for other people, and nine times out of ten, you’ll be most surprised by how amazing people think you are. Remember, you are more critical of yourself than anyone else is.
Curious to hear how you’ve sought out feedback from clients. What methods did you use? What have you learned through doing it?