What to do with all this client intelligence?

woodharbinger3_1122-Edit_1By Margaret Felts

Over my last two blog posts we have discussed how to best gather client intelligence and why. Here’s a quick refresher: “Conducting client interviews throughout the life of the project allows you to fix the issue before it is too late – when the project is complete.”

Now that you have the answers, the hard part is over, right? You’ve called all of your clients, interviewed them, and documented their feedback – that’s a lot of work, so the process must be done, right? It’s not. The hard part is just beginning – you need to address the results.

Quantitative Data

Interpreting client feedback can be a challenge, depending on the types of questions you asked. If you asked quantitative questions, one good method would be to chart your results in a graph. By adding dates to the data, it helps track results over time. Within all this information, look for trends. Was there anything your firm did consistently well over time? If so, those things should be noted; likewise with negative trends. Using this chart will make it easier to set future benchmarks and track if you’re meeting them. In the end, remember to summarize the data so it’s easy to review and distribute. After all, what use is all this feedback if you don’t share the results with the firm. More on that later.

Qualitative Data

If you asked qualitative questions, look for trends across all of the interviews. Trends become apparent when you hear the same basic points being discussed over and over again. Such as, what differentiates your firm; exceeding expectations on project goals; key motivators for clients to refer the firm; and more. Try to assess which specific areas of the process needs improvement. Are you excelling at the kick off meeting, but noticing more trouble spots during the final bid stage? Are you typically exceeding client expectations? If not, dig deeper and find out why. Address what needs improvement, and be sure to contact your clients and let them know about your process improvements. Remember to always summarize the results.

Handling Negative Feedback with Grace

Undoubtedly, you will have positive, and hopefully less, negative feedback. It is natural to get defensive when hearing negative feedback, but make sure you understand the whole picture. One negative comment might not be enough to fully understand if this is a fundamental problem with the firm or just a communication error. Interviewing multiple people from that company can help hone and validate your results, or in some cases highlight personality conflicts that can be addressed. It’s easy to zero in on that negative feedback, but once again, be sure to understand where this negativity is coming from. And despite receiving negative feedback, don’t forget the positive comments. Make sure to relay those to your team.

Spreading the Word

Now that you’ve synthesized all these comments and numbers into something coherent, do you tell the whole firm or just the people directly involved? This is a decision that should be made on a firm by firm basis and should reflect the culture of your firm. If your firm operates in a transparent fashion, distributing the summarized results to everyone makes sense. If your firm has client champions responsible for managing relationships independently, then a solution could be to distribute a summary of only their client list to the champion. Regardless of the number of people within your firm chosen to be notified about specific results and/or summarized results, you need to demonstrate that you listened to the client by following up.

Always Follow-up

Feedback is useless if it doesn’t solidify positive behavior, and alter negative behavior. More importantly, however, is taking advantage of this moment to show your clients that you listen, and that their opinion matters. Always thank the clients you interviewed for their time and providing honest feedback. If you collected exceptional feedback, ask these clients if you can use their quote as a testimonial for proposals or marketing material. If an issue was brought up, be sure to call that client back, let them know that you heard them, and that you are getting to the root of the issue, and have a solution to offer.


In the A/E industry, we know that relationships build and sustain our businesses. Having a process for effectively gathering and monitoring client feedback is essential to strengthening these relationships. Gauging the strength of that client relationship becomes an essential part of doing business.

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