Your clients and customers are talking about you. Do you know what they are saying? We recently found out by starting a client feedback process in our firm. Feedback loops are valuable tools for all service providers, and economic development is no exception.
In this fast-paced and hectic time, it is easy to say ‘we don’t have time’ to stop and evaluate our clients’ and customers’ satisfaction. In fact, this is among the most important activities for a thriving business or organization. Soliciting feedback and acting on the response creates a ‘feedback loop’, which in turn strengthens relationships, improves processes and outputs, and creates opportunities for innovation and improvement. That’s why we asked for our clients’ feedback – to get better.
Online survey tools are perfect for soliciting anonymous feedback in a manageable format. In a large volume context, quarterly online surveys can be collected from customers. If the numbers are smaller, an annual survey may suffice. In the absence of a formal survey process, one-on-one interviews, perhaps conducted over lunch with the principals of the organization, or even handled over the phone by a third party, can collect the needed feedback.
Make no mistake, the process of soliciting feedback can create more work. It may uncover communications weaknesses, misaligned expectations, or bring to light unknown issues. If you get negative feedback, it gives you a chance to address an issue you may not be aware of – when you receive positive feedback, it is reinforced two times, once when the client recounts and recalls it, and again when you read or consider it.
For a small or medium-sized economic development organization, feedback can improve processes and outputs. It can measure the satisfaction of your customers or stakeholders, and it may give you specific actions to improve outcomes or satisfaction in the future. When you conduct satisfaction surveys over time, you collect data for business decisions and learn more about your value proposition.
Creative EDC recently surveyed past and current clients via an online survey. We asked questions to understand the types of consulting assistance they may need in the future, and specifically asked for feedback on their most recent consulting project with us. We are proud to report that 100% would recommend Creative EDC to a colleague, 100% were ‘Satisfied’ or ‘Very Satisfied’ and 100% said we met or exceeded expectations. We also received several comments that reinforce our value proposition.
We incorporated the feedback loop into our ongoing processes and now send clients a quick survey at the conclusion of each project. We will continue to conduct the annual online anonymous surveys of all clients, and finally we plan to engage a professional to interview our recent clients to learn more about their experiences and future needs. Creative EDC understands that the experience working with us is as important as the content of the work. We are committed to relationships that extend beyond mere deliverables.
So, when you get some feedback, either personal or professional; expected or unsolicited, say “Thank you!” and incorporate that feedback into your continuous improvement process. And, if you lead an organization, you should formalize the process of making feedback loops for your clients and customers. It will make your organization stronger and signal to your clients that you are committed to their goals and open to their perspectives as you work together.
If you want to read more on feedback loops, Sanford Holshouser law firm has a great article here.