What used to be a rarity is now commonplace: companies want your feedback. Whether you buy a product online, see a health care professional, or have your accountant provide tax advice, you likely expect to receive a follow-up email or text asking you to rate your experience. Increased competition, online review sites, social media, and savvy consumers continue to drive businesses to seek feedback to gauge customer experiences.

And yet, many businesses fail to invite consumers to rate and comment on their experience. This is a missed opportunity that ultimately impacts long-term client satisfaction and the company’s bottom line. Today, we explore why many professional services businesses are hesitant to ask for feedback and how they can overcome their fear of the process. Whether you provide legal, consulting, accounting, engineering, or other business-related services, implementing a customer experience program will set you apart from the competition.

Here are just a few common reasons why professional services fail to survey their clients:

  • The client will not reply, so why bother?
  • Fear of negative reviews and uncertainty of how to respond.
  • Customer feedback programs are too expensive to implement.
  • My clients have all the information they need.
  • Because the company is small, the professional service provider already knows what its clients think or need.

All of the above are common myths. Every business should consistently seek client feedback about its product or service. If companies are not asking for feedback, they are missing out on significant opportunities to:

  • Improve business operations.
  • Enhance customer loyalty.
  • Turn a negative experience into a positive outcome.
  • Encourage “social proof” by urging users to rate and review your products and services experiences on online reputation platforms.
  • Tweak product or service offerings to better align with their customer base.
  • Identify areas of opportunity to reach new customers or fill a gap in the market.

Capturing Customer Insights

Luckily, there are numerous resources that professional services can use to solicit feedback, such as:

  • Live Chat
  • Customer satisfaction software
  • End of engagement email surveys via SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, or Polldaddy
  • Face-to-face surveys
  • Telephone surveys
  • Hard copy surveys with a personalized letter from senior management
  • Any combination of the above

Businesses should carefully reflect on which option will likely generate the most participation and meet the outlined goal. For example, are you surveying many clients about their general perceptions of the business, or is the survey targeted to a handful of “key” clients who represent a significant portion of the firm’s revenue? Complex services such as legal or accounting will benefit from using face-to-face surveys or telephone surveys. Additionally, experience shows that clients are more likely to respond when going through a neutral, third-party source to give honest responses.

Professional services organizations can also take advantage of online tools tailored toward their unique needs and insights. Companies such as SoGoSurvey and ClearlyRated offer secure platforms to conduct online legal surveys and analyze feedback.

More specifically, ClearlyRated provides Net Promoter® Score surveys to measure and improve customer loyalty. Many customers weigh others’ opinions heavily when deciding which firm to engage with, so maintaining a positive reputation is essential. Survey results can complement reputation management efforts by showing businesses where there are opportunities for improvement.

But keep your expectations realistic – you’re unlikely to achieve a 100% participation rate, but that’s OK; even a 10% response rate can provide valuable information. Consistently fine-tuning the customer experience will increase customer loyalty and set you apart from the competition.

Creating Meaningful Survey Questions

One frequent pitfall that many businesses succumb to is not planning BEFORE launching a survey. Rather than asking vague, generic questions that have little value when it comes to measuring satisfaction or how to improve, focus on specific, targeted questions around crucial aspects of the business. For instance, break down experiences into essential points, such as:

  • Was the professional and/or team responsive to your questions or concerns?
  • Did we clearly explain our fees and billing structure based on the scope of the project?
  • Did we exceed your expectations?
  • Did we keep you informed about the progress of the project/matter?
  • How likely they are to recommend the company/product/service to others.

Have a plan for the type of information you want to collect and how and who will respond to any customer concerns. Remember to keep the survey short; no more than six to eight questions for optimal client response. Additionally, it’s helpful to mix up the types of questions by providing a variety of multiple-choice, scale ratings, yes/no, or short-answer depending on what kind of information you want to elicit. Also, let customers know up-front approximately how long the survey is expected to take and why their feedback is important. Finally, always thank them for their time and participation.

Managing Feedback

When implementing a client experience program, a business must commit to accept and act upon ALL feedback. Just because a company doesn’t like a response doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Clients expect that their opinions and concerns are not only heard but addressed promptly. Ignoring negative feedback can result in the client airing the grievance online, which can quickly tarnish a company’s reputation.

For example, if several people respond that the business is not responsive to returning phone calls or emails, be prepared to execute change quickly. This could mean creating a policy of a 24-hour timeframe for replying – and sticking to it! Note the change on the company website, and other social media venues, so clients know that you listened to their concerns and care. Implementing positive changes can mean not only a greater financial return but also improved customer loyalty.

If a specific client has an issue, senior management should be ready to step in and personally address the problem promptly. This simple act can go a long way in forging improved relationships. It shows clients that they matter.

Implementing Client Satisfaction Surveys

Are you ready to take the next step? Implementing a plan for a client experience program for your business or professional services firm can be easier than you think. Working with a marketing professional such as YGL Enterprises can help you implement a plan that fits your business’s unique needs and generates the type of feedback you can use to drive continued success. Contact YGL Enterprises today to learn more and develop a focused strategy to realize marketing solutions.

 

Yvonne Levine, Charlotte NC-based Marketing Consultant Provider of strategic marketing solutions and brand management.Yvonne Levine, president of YGL Enterprises, Inc., is a strategic marketing consultant who collaborates with professional services and small and mid-sized businesses to develop and execute successful marketing strategies, branding initiatives, content creation, and digital marketing plans. By helping businesses devise a targeted strategy first, this approach creates a strong foundation for tactical decisions, which drives brand awareness and positive results. Follow Yvonne on LinkedIn and Facebook.