One of my mentors has elevated the quote “Feedback is a gift” to a near mantra for our team. Occasionally, the quote has served as an introduction to a piece of imminent personal feedback, prompting me to ask “Does it come with a gift receipt?”
Personally and professionally, it can be difficult to ask for feedback; it is far less uncomfortable to operate under the assumption that all is well. All too often, we choose not to ask the question out of anticipation that the answer will be something negative; this is simply human nature. Ultimately, I believe this decision not only deprives us of the opportunity for true connection and candid conversation, but the chance to receive positive feedback that may not otherwise have been shared. It is as important to understand what is working so that we can continue those practices, as it is to understand what can be better.
In my organization, we strive to take every opportunity to ask our clients and each other “How are we doing?” Our willingness to be vulnerable, to open ourselves to the possibility of hearing something that may not be easy to hear, sends the message that we care enough to listen, acknowledge our mistakes and work to make things better. If our clients are willing to share their feedback with us – of any kind – we regard it as gold. We do our colleagues and our clients a great disservice if we do not encourage them to share their opinions at a point where we can make a legitimate difference.
Last year, our organization made an investment in an online client satisfaction survey tool called Client Heartbeat. The tool allows us to send very short surveys to our clients on a regular basis. We ask respondents to rate us on a scale from 1 to 10 on the following areas:
- Promptness: How satisfied are you with the speed & efficiency at which we are able to respond to your requests?
- Accuracy: How happy are you with our attention to detail and thoroughness?
- Partnership: How collaborative and proactive do you find us in supporting you?
- Helpfulness: How happy are you with the extent to which we help you learn and provide recommendations that are in your best interest?
The responses from this program so far have been even more valuable than we had hoped for. The surveys, and our subsequent follow up conversations and meetings, have allowed us to connect with our clients – not just as a service provider, but as a partner that asks, rather than assuming, what our clients need from us. We’ve received positive feedback and unsolicited testimonials, which we are very grateful for, and we’ve also received some constructive ideas for how we can improve our service. The best part of this process, in my opinion, has been the ongoing conversation that we are having as an organization around client satisfaction. These conversations, of course, took place prior to our investment in Client Heartbeat, but they now take place more regularly, involve more members of our team and are based on specific feedback from our clients rather than our own assumptions about our performance. I can’t possibly calculate how valuable this will be for our clients and our company over a long term period, but I can already begin to see positive results.
In this post, I’ve focused mainly on the importance of asking feedback from clients, but that is only half of the equation. It is equally important to regularly solicit feedback from employees to gauge the performance and the satisfaction of individuals, departments and the company as a whole. I’ll be exploring that topic in my next post. What has your experience been? How do you or your company ask for feedback?