Client Feedback Conversations: It’s not just about scores

March 8, 2021

Successful professional services firms are adopting and implementing data-driven decision-making to drive more revenue, repeat business, and referrals. Data is a good place to start the feedback and client experience process. And, the customer feedback tool is great at getting feedback and data (here's a case study). However, the scores you get back from the tool are just the beginning. Customer Feedback scores that drive actual conversation provides a lot of value.

Scores only matter as much as they help you know when to engage with a customer to capture the story behind their feedback. A formal feedback survey should never replace a customer conversation. However, the results should help start conversations that need to happen. These conversations create the stories, and the stories create learning.

Here are three examples:

Best Friends

A project manager sends his first feedback survey to a client. The client responds, and the responses were all very positive, except for one low score regarding the project budget.

The PM knows he's was supposed to follow up but isn't sure how. We show him where to capture notes about his follow-up with the client and we point him to a guide for dealing with this specific scenario.

We suggest he emails the client first, to let him know there needs to be a conversation about the budget – if he’s not expecting you to call, he might not be ready to give more detail. The PM responds, “Oh, it’s okay, he’s my best friend. I’ll just give him a call.”

We check in a few days later, the PM had called and figured out the budget problem, which isn't actually a problem. The PM's best friend doesn't know how to read the blueprints on a new project and he's afraid he'll look bad.

The PM walks through the blueprints and the project with his friend. The project is on budget, but the client is concerned it might get out of control.

Following the review of the blueprints and the walk-through of the project site, both are satisfied the outcome is going to be successful, and the scope and budget will remain on target. And, best of all, the friend "saved face" as his best friend helped him understand how to read the blueprints.

Client Meetings are the Best

How many of you have been in a meeting with clients, and you could tell one of them was hiding behind their side of the table? You sensed there was something they weren’t telling you and didn’t know how to coax out the information?

Perhaps the technical lead on the client-side is being overshadowed by his boss, who won't let him get a word in edgewise. Perhaps he just didn’t know how to talk about the soft stuff that really matters to him.

We all encounter situations where important, sometimes critical, information is hidden. They aren’t trying to keep you in the dark, they don’t even think to tell you these things.

We had one client who learned how to make the life of their accounts payable person easier by making a simple change to their invoices. This resulted in more timely payment and a happier client.

Asking for feedback from a broad spectrum of shareholders and influencers is fundamental to building a successful outcome. If you don't ask for feedback, you're a lot less likely to get it.

No Scores Necessary. Just talk?

When working with a client in San Francisco, one of the principals sent his first survey to a long-term client. The client didn’t take the survey, but responded to the email invitation saying “I don’t want to take your survey, can we just talk?” Of course! That’s the whole idea. The principal took the client out to lunch and brought the questions along to drive a conversation.

By the end of the meal, the client said “I’m impressed – I’ve been doing this for 20 years and no one has ever asked me for feedback like this before. It really shows you care about my projects. I’ve got two new projects coming up – I was going to send them out for RFP, but maybe you can just take care of them for me.”

Client Conversation Takeaways

Each of these stories provides examples of how the purpose of feedback isn’t to replace human conversations but to quickly and easily identify when and where conversations need to happen.

If you’re doing feedback right, you and your team will have more conversations with clients, rather than fewer. And, more conversations lead to stronger relationships.

When a client responds to a feedback request, respond back to the client. Thank them for taking the time to provide feedback. Keep the conversation going. That’s what separates a generic survey from real feedback that drives business value.

When a client does not respond, follow-up and have a real conversation anyway. Even no feedback can become feedback if you let it.

Check out How To Get Started with Electronic Client Feedback.

If you’d like to explore how to use data-driven client feedback to drive revenue, referrals, and repeat business, let us know.

Ryan Suydam

Ryan Suydam co-founded Client Savvy in 2004, to help firms create fierce client loyalty by designing, implementing, and measuring client experiences. He has coached nearly 700 organizations and over 30,000 professionals on the skills required to be “client savvy.”

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