Asking clients what they think of your firm (and perhaps your skills) can be daunting! However, surveys are a tool that help you understand your or your firm’s strengths and areas for improvement. Surveying clients to understand what value your firm offers and how your firm is perceived by clients is an effective strategy to build your business and refine your services. It also lets your clients know that you listened and cared about their feedback. If you listen and solve issues instead of only touting your own credentials, it will often help you to strengthen your relationship and hopefully lead to follow on work with your client.
There are many online tools available now to streamline your survey process and make it simple. A rule of thumb to follow is to keep the survey simple and quick. I prefer using a rating scale (1 – 5 or 1 - 10) for answers to 5 - 7 direct questions with an opportunity for comments at the end of the survey. The way you approach your client to ask him/her to complete the survey is important. I’ve been involved in many different approaches with varied levels of success:
Old school – mailing a letter and paper survey to the client;
Directly calling the client to go through the survey over the phone or in person;
Personally calling and then emailing the client with a link to the survey; and
Emailing the client from a general mailbox (From the President of X Company) with a link to the survey.
The most effective method I’ve found is personally calling the client and following up with an email that contains the survey link.
Who should call the client? The best person to call the client is NOT the Project Manager – many clients will not feel comfortable being candid about issues with the project if he/she is speaking directly to the Project Manager. I’d advise having a senior person (Principal-in-Charge if applicable, or a senior business leader of the firm (President, COO, Practice Leader) make the call. This senior person can be perceived as objective, but with enough weight in the firm to make changes if necessary.
So the question in the end should not be To Survey or Not to Survey, but instead, How Shall I Survey. The feedback you gain from the process will far outweigh any discomfort from the process!