Dissolve the Fear of Gathering Client Intelligence

By Margaret Felts

Wood Harbinger’s engineers have been blogging since 2013! This Throwback Thursday series features posts from back in the day that are just too good to stay at the back of the blog. Enjoy this one by Margaret Felts, originally published on September 24, 2013:

In the Architecture and Engineering (A/E) industry, we have heard time and time again that relationships build and sustain our businesses.  Yet not every company has implemented a process for effectively gathering client satisfaction surveys to glean client intelligence. Several reasons account for this, including conflict over who in the company is the best to gather this information, and internal fears over hearing criticism regarding work. However, gauging the strength of that client relationship becomes an essential part of doing business. In the first part of this three part series, we will discuss options who should champion client satisfaction surveys, what to ask, and what to do once you’ve received that information.

Some firms think that project managers are the best individuals to gauge client relationships since they already work hand in hand with the client and have established a connection.  Others believe that this working relationship hinders an honest response from the client because, even in business, people respect each other’s feelings.  Other A/E companies believe the CEO or Principals should measure the strength of their client relationships.  Principals probably have the most personal connections. After working with a client, who is more of a friend after so many years, some Principals feel uncomfortable discussing an issue with their friend.  Still, other firms believe that having a 3rd party interviewer conduct client satisfaction surveys is the best route, since they are on the outside, objective, and the client can be truly honest with their responses.

However, sometimes the resistance you face is internal. If client satisfaction surveys are a new idea for your firm, be prepared.  It is understandable, and common, that people are scared to have someone unfamiliar with a project call a client and ask them for their feedback. It’s only natural that they would have this feeling, since it is their work that’s being evaluated and/or scrutinized during the process.

So what if the interviewer learns a piece of negative information about a project and the PM had no idea that their client was disappointed?  This is great news!  Now, there is time to dive into the issue, figure out a solution, and be seen as a problem solver.  This kind of thinking reaps huge benefits in strengthening the relationship with that client, enabling the design team to address the issue without getting defensive.

Next Month: What questions should you really be asking your clients?

Follow Margaret on Twitter @MFelt_WH

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