The Why: Don't fool yourself. Seeking feedback from clients is important. It's the most direct route to finding out what it is you're doing wrong. Finding the most effective way to obtain this information may depend on the kind of business you have and the nature of the particular client.
The best way to seek client feedback is through the completion of client surveys or feedback forms. These could be made available to your client upon completion of each matter. If you're brave enough for the bitter truth, clients will be more forthcoming on a form, particularly if a member of staff is someone the client works with on a regular basis. The drawback to a form is that many clients are not bothered about making your life easier, and simply don't bother to complete it. This is particularly true if the matter is a 'one time only' engagement.
One possible solution to this hurdle is a pre-emptive strike. Try providing your clients with the opportunity to provide feedback earlier in your dealings. This will afford your clients the opportunity to voice any grievances and have any misunderstandings corrected while the matter is ongoing.
Online Forms vs. Paper Forms
Here are some of the advantages to adopting an online 'tell all' approach with your clients:
• Switching from paper to online forms will save you time and money. Who doesn't want to save either?
• Online forms enable a process known as branching. Branching allows your clients to seamlessly skip past questions that might not apply to them, thereby reducing confusion and lost time viewing inapplicable questions.
• You will be able to create questions that guide your clients to validation requirements that will provide accurate data. Your clients will also be spared from any head scratching over what it is you really want to know.
• The feedback is immediately available. There is no time like the present for improvement!
• Electronic and web-based forms are easier to fill out than paper. Fact. A nice side-effect from this is that response rates normally improve.
• Your clients will be wowed by how modern and efficient your business is.
• A bright spark in your business points out some questions that are missing from your form. No problem! Adding additional questions to an online form only takes a few minutes. Adding more pages to a paper form is bad for the environment.
• Distribution of your form is almost too easy. Online forms can be accessed from any computer with web access.
• Information will immediately be in a database with no costly and mind-numbing retyping to be done.
Online forms are most successful when they're not too long or too cumbersome to complete. Here are some tips for making your form as user friendly as possible:
• Ratings-type questions (for example 1-5) may be easier and faster for a client to complete
• If the data required is a no-brainer, clients can supply information without further ado. If your clients find that they need to think and/or refer to supporting materials, they might be less inclined to be forthcoming
• Keep the number of steps required before reaching that all important submit button as few as possible
• Ask the hard questions about client satisfaction, but also provide your client the opportunity to laud your brilliance
Many businesses are prone to boasting in their various marketing materials of how they provide 'excellent client service'. In order to back those claims up, however, businesses need to connect with their clients by staying in touch and learning whether or not these clients feel that their needs are indeed being met. This is where the feedback form makes its debut.
Just ensure that each element is easy and that, if your form is unavoidably lengthy, all your clients have to do is keep scrolling (and sighing) as they complete each step in the long march to the blessed submit button.