It’s hard to believe that most professional services eschew client sat programs. That’s not to say these firms don’t believe in delighting their clients. It’s just they rely on ad hoc and anecdotal feedback. And that’s simply not enough if your firm wants the most predictable path to increased loyalty, retention and referrals.
Simply put, every professional services business should develop an effective process to measure and track their clients’ satisfaction. To avoid being a meaningless exercise, that process should also include mechanisms to identify and act on areas for improvement. It’s rather simple really: what gets measured gets done. We know because Greenough has conducted annual client sat surveys since 2000, and here’s what we’ve learned over the past 17 years.
Measure What Matters
A client satisfaction survey should measure how well clients believe you have delivered on your promises. At Greenough, we ask every client to rate us on things like how well we’ve delivered on their business goals, how much passion we’ve demonstrated for their business, how well we understand it, the quality of our strategic advice, and the value they feel they’ve received for their budget.
Make It Easy for Clients to Respond
A satisfaction survey has no value if clients don’t complete it. Although we’d love to get comments as well as ratings on each performance metric, we learned early on that it demanded too much of their time. Now our survey asks clients to rate their agreement with simple, first-person statements about our performance on a scale of 1–10 and to provide one summary comment with more specific feedback.
Track and Analyze Your Performance
Tracking your performance over time lets you see where you are delighting your clients, where you are improving and where you still need to improve. The 1 to 10 ratings scale we use makes it easy for us to track year-over-year performance for each metric, both by client and for the organization as a whole, and to identify how our performance is trending in each area.
Act on What You’ve Learned
Use the survey as a strategic tool to not only measure client satisfaction but also identify and, most importantly, act on opportunities to improve. We discuss our survey results with our clients to get additional insights that inform our planning process. Areas for improvement are incorporated into the plan objectives with specific action plans to address them. For example, in 2016 we:
- Staffed up and significantly strengthened our marketing team.
- Hired a dedicated senior writer and content strategist for our largest accounts.
- Strengthened our media capabilities by instituting weekly media best practices meetings with prominent journalist/editor guest speakers and by implementing a newsjacking process.
- Expanded our quarterly GMetrics report to include both insights into what did and didn’t work well and recommended adjustments to the PR or content strategy.
Don’t Rest on Your Laurels
If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. Use the process to continually improve your clients’ satisfaction with your services. The actions we’ve taken in response to our survey results and client feedback almost always result in higher satisfaction scores the next year.
Implementing in an annual cycle of measuring and analyzing client satisfaction and acting on the results involves a significant commitment of time, effort and, often, money. But we’ve found it’s well worth the investment. We‘ve maintained an impressive client retention rate in a very competitive market. Many of our accounts are the result of client referrals. Our client sat scores are the ultimate validation of our efforts: for the past 5 years, every one of our clients said they would recommend Greenough.