Every once in a while, it makes sense to address your client feedback metric, so that you will receive some lived-experience insight into your operation’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to learn what can be done better, which service delivery or other operational processes might be simplified and what clients would like to see more of.
The smartest way to begin the client feedback process is to decide what you want to know and what purpose that information will serve. Are you trying to develop new products or services, so that you’ll be able to give clients what they want before they know they want it? Or is business dwindling and you’re in damage control mode, attempting to win back clients?
Some market research questions are best explored through the eyes of clients and others around the conference table with your leadership team (or maybe your front-line staff, who have loads of on-the-ground experience that they’d love to share). Let’s examine when it makes sense to query your clients and when you’ll learn more from in-house research. Given below are five standard yet very clever survey questions, some that apply to clients and others that apply to you and your team:
- What are the challenges that clients (in a given industry or category) are facing?
- Which of these problems is our organization equipped to address?
- What solutions are we offering now and what can we/should we add, re-tool, or quit?
- How effective are our solutions—what do clients most often hire us to do?
- What do we do next?
Note that questions 1 and 4 would best be put to your clients and that questions 2, 3 & 5 involve business strategy and would be addressed in-house, once you’ve spoken with selected clients to figure out questions 1 and 4.
How you conduct the client survey deserves some thought, as well. It might be best for Freelance consultants and small business owners to run a low-key survey by setting up an environment that enables comfortable and candid conversation. Consider making the process informal and perhaps even seemingly impromptu. Larger companies may feel comfortable running a formal focus group, perhaps facilitated by an outside market research firm.
Question 1: What are the primary challenges facing your client’s organization?
Whether the client comes to you or you go the client, start by asking a “how are things going in your office” question, or inquire about the next big project or objective (whether or not it would involve your organization). Find out what’s going on and let the client talk.
Questions 2 and 3: Which challenges do you want to solve? How will that be done?
Given the expertise and resources you have, coupled with the client’s inclination to contract for the necessary billable hours, which additional client challenges might you be asked to take on (or what can you cleverly propose to be hired to do)? Can your organization successfully deliver the desired outcomes, or will you need to subcontract some portion? Can you learn how clients are managing these responsibilities now? Is there a competitor who gets hired to do that work , or is nothing being done because the client isn’t sure what to do, or lacks the budget to complete the job?
Question 4: Have our solutions satisfactorily resolved the clients’ challenges?
What project did the client hire you to do? What are the projects that your organization is most often hired to do? How does do clients feel about your performance—is your expertise and ability to deliver the service trusted and respected by clients? Does it seem that you’ll receive more business from several of your clients, on a similar project or another type?
Question 5: What do you do next, based on client responses?
Now here is the judgment call for you and the team. The essence of the process is interpreting the data compiled. What can you realistically do, based on the responses from clients in questions 1 and 4 and the opportunities and strengths within your organization, as noted in questions 2, 3 and 5?
Remember, it is most likely possible to beta test a new or re-tooled service with a trusted client who would receive a reduced project fee in exchange for helping your organization to perfect the business model.
Thanks for reading,