You Like Me, Right? I Mean Really Like Me?
By Julie Bennett, Training Account Manager, Signature Worldwide
We want our clients to like us. Sometimes we assume they like us, or that we satisfy, delight, inspire, them—add in your word du jour. But do we know and can we ask? It’s always nice to check in and confirm what we know—in all of our relationships. Head off a small problem before it’s a big one. And just like being thanked—it’s always appreciated.
The when and how of collecting feedback depends on who you are speaking with and the size of the company. With a larger company, you can collect survey feedback. There are plenty of companies that can help you with this. With non-competitive clients, you also could opt for a focus group and solicit detailed feedback. Certainly, this is a much higher-level investment of time and resources. Yet, clients might feel more comfortable with some of the attention taken off them in a group setting. The client now can be inspired by what others think and you could get a flushed out idea from the multiple perspectives on a similar issue or question.
Yet, what I am writing about is a one-on-one way to engage your top-level decision maker in feedback. They want the most out of their investment with you—and an engaged client (the ones you want to keep) will answer your questions.
Goal Review. You always should collect feedback each time you revisit the client’s goals. “When you started with us, these were the goals of our working together. This is what we have done … How have your goals shifted with the progress we have made?” Go back to the work plan or letter of agreement and check where you think they are and where they think they are.
Each and Every Time. What if you collected feedback every time you spoke to your client? This depends on how often you engage. If you are working with a client monthly or less, I suggest you might collect feedback during each contact. This feedback can be as quick and easy as one question, “What’s one thing we could be doing for you that we aren’t already?” The more you ask for feedback, the more your client understands how important it is to you. Keep the line of communication open. If there is a problem down the road, they have this foundation to engage in a challenging conversation with you.
Tell them the “why.” Let them know “your opinion, voice, and feedback are important to us. We have our own great ideas but also are interested in what has traction with you.” Let them know you strive to have an open relationship with your clients where feedback goes both ways. Also, understand their personality type. There might be a client who will give you lots of feedback, some who will give you none, some who feel badly about it and some you have to decipher what it is they are saying under all the flowers and compliments. Approaching different styles of communicators with different approaches might produce better results.
Make it an easy question. “What can we do better?” is a difficult question to answer. It is not the client’s responsibility to fix what is wrong with any aspect of your business, and that is what they might infer you are asking. It’s also an overwhelming question. “What one thing could we do better?” is an easier question for a client to answer. It’s smaller and quantifiable. Your client might more easily come up with “one thing.” Not “one thing” you are doing “wrong” but just something they would like you to do a little better.
“What new products/services would you like to see us working on?” This question has two great outcomes. You get their opinion yet they also are committing to a future with you. You now are engaging an emotional hold and verbal commitment for moving forward. You also are conveying an interest in growing with the client, as they grow.
“What’s the most important reason you choose to do business with us?” It’s not the price. We all know that. Yet, we worry about the investment they make. The relationship is likely part of it. However, if you don’t know—you probably shouldn’t guess. They might say something you wouldn’t expect.
Use the Golden Pause. Take their first answer with a nod and smile. Then wait for it. Wait for them to go beyond the easy, simple, quick answer. The next answer, when you simply wait—might be the better one. It’s beyond the surface level. It’s in that moment of quiet when neither of you is saying anything, they feel compelled to fill the silence with something. By waiting, giving them the “Golden Pause,” you get them to explain a bit deeper—as long as you don’t get too excited and jump on the first need you hear!
Verify. Always verify. “Is this making sense?” “Are we on the same page?” “Sounds like we are in agreement?” are all ways to verify the topic at hand. Yet, what’s the difference in saying to a client, “We really value your business”vs. “You know we value your business, right?”Getting them to agree and say, “Yes” is collecting feedback. In addition, if they say, “No,” you get the opportunity to fix it.
Most importantly, you want to take an individualized approach based on the client. It depends on what kind of services you provide them, what kind of relationship you have, their role in the organization, and their investment in you. Yet, ask. Always ask the question.
Julie Bennett is a training account manager for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com. You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.