Formal Feedback Programs

Do you have a formal feedback program in place? It's critical to know what your clients think about you and, even more important, what they say about you, since this will inevitably spread to prospects and other clients. The American Marketing Association says that only 4% of customers who are dissatisfied enough to switch to a competitor take the time to complain. And a complaint, as the management book says, can be a gift. To encourage these gifts, you should undertake a consistent, systematic program of gathering feedback from clients. Here are some suggestions:

  • Determine overall goals of research by creating a wish list of what you want to learn from the project.
  • To elicit detailed and candid responses as well as obtain a high response rate, plan to conduct interviews by telephone.
  • Formulate questions that move from the general to the specific, beginning with general questions about the client's goals in working with your industry, then shifting to the subject firm, starting with overall satisfaction ratings and moving from there into specific aspects of service.
  • In writing questions about specific aspects of service, follow the flow of the job process as the client experiences it. This will create a clear image of the firm's services in the respondent's mind and enable more precise responses.
  • On ratings questions, probe on categories scored average or lower to understand in as much detail as possible why the client is not happy with that aspect of service.
  • Avoid subcategorizing aspects of service into many individual aspects, since that may prevent you from seeing big issues you hadn't thought of.
  • In analyzing data, read all the responses, flagging all mentions of specific problems to aggregate them and obtain quantitative measures of their importance.
  • Relate qualitative feedback to statistical measures such as means and correlations as closely as possible by use of suitable quotes that add color and give the heads of the relevant business areas clear ideas of the actual problems.
  • Formulate conclusions and recommendations that issue directly from the body of the presentation.

Don't take your client's feedback for granted!