27th October 2014
You speak to the Client every day. At least once - and often more. It’s simply part of the day to day management of the Client – Agency relationship. You know when they are happy with what you are doing and you know when they aren’t, right?
Well, to a degree, you probably are. But such day to day communication usually deals with the ins and outs of the project in hand – what is top of today’s agenda. A simple Client Satisfaction Survey is undoubtedly a useful approach to gaining a better overall understanding of how the Client feels that the agency is performing at all levels and over a period of time, not just today. And crucially, it will allow you to create a series of performance indicators that you can track over time and use to drive and measure continual improvement.
With online survey tools available that enable the construction, distribution and subsequent analysis of a survey both quickly, easily and at either no or a minimal subscription fee, there really is nothing to lose.
Remind yourself that all feedback is useful feedback. You may not want to hear negative feedback, but if this is what your Client is thinking anyway then by not capturing this feedback, you are merely sidestepping the problem.
You’d certainly hope that, rather like an employee appraisal, any big issues would have been raised already, and that the results will contain no major surprises. But be prepared for responses that are not wholeheartedly favourable and see the whole exercise as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to identify Clients that may be demonstrating early signs that they may walk. An opportunity to identify Clients where there may be room for further business development. A chance to show that you want to listen.
One of the best things about the whole survey exercise is that as well as giving the Client the chance to highlight issues and concerns, it can equally be used as a platform for the Client to praise good work and highlight outstanding contributions by team members. Just make sure that all the positive feedback is filtered down to the team who will in turn be motivated to keep doing more of what they are doing well.
So, you’ve decided to give it a go? Here are some useful tips to bear in mind before you send your Client – Agency survey:
- When deciding who to send the survey to, look at Client contacts across the board. Day to day operational contacts will offer a different perspective to strategic contacts. Both are important.
- Where possible, and preferably face to face or on the telephone, let the Client know in advance that you’ll be sending a survey and that you’d really appreciate their feedback. A survey invitation out of the blue is more likely to be ignored.
- Know that Clients are busy and are therefore less likely to respond to a long survey. Halfway through they’ll decide it is taking too long and quit. So limit your questions but choose each question very carefully.
- Make sure you have some questions that provide clearly measurable outcomes. These will enable you to track and trace continual improvement over time. For example, would they recommend you to others? What score would they give you for X, Y, Z? Do they agree that service levels improved over the last 6 months?
- Do provide Clients with the ability to provide some free text responses. If they are advising you that they are rating something as ‘poor’, then you need to give the opportunity to explain why. And what they might want to see instead. It’s the free-text commentary that usually provides us with the greatest insight into the mindset of individual contacts.
- Set your survey up with a closing date and send a couple of reminders over the period before that date to remind them. Pick your moment. A Friday lunchtime reminder is more likely to illicit response than one first thing Monday morning....but don’t remind them too often. It’ll just make them annoyed.
- Know that some people are just not the type of people that fill in surveys. You’ll soon work out who they are after a while. It’s a shame, but it’s better to accept this than hassle them. Try a different approach for these people.
- Understand that there will be a natural bias within your results and bear this in mind when interpreting your results. Clients who are most likely to fill in surveys will be those who are really happy or really unhappy with the work you are doing. But don’t assume that non-responders are content – this is not necessarily the case.
Just one final thing, before you go ahead, make sure you have the relevant management support. If you are given feedback where action is needed but upon which no action is taken, that’ll do damage to your Client relationship. The most important thing is that once you have decided to go ahead with the survey, you will be given the support to work through identified required improvements.
Of course, this is an ongoing cycle of activity. Re-run the survey at a suitable point after which such improvements have been applied so that you can measure the difference your actions have made. Define these intervals up front, ensure they are realistic and stick to them.
Soon your Clients will come to expect your survey as part of the service. If you listen and implement improvements as a result, then the survey process may be part of the reason why your Client satisfaction levels could increase next time round!