In this next installment, I’ll provide some ideas for diagnosing the strength of your client experience. How do you know if you have one? If you have one, how is it serving you and your clients? How can you refine it to generate referrals and grow your business?
Define Your Client Experience Through Survey Data:
The most effective way to gather data about the health of your client experience is to ask your clients directly. Ending a project with a formal survey is a great way to tie up your interactions and help ensure that your guests feel heard and valued. If your client has constructive feedback for you, it’s better that they share it with you instead of sharing it in a negative review. If you want feedback from clients of the past, simply send a friendly email.
Here are some tips for asking your clients about their experience:
Ask questions that yield specific qualitative information: What did you love about working with us? What suggestions do you have to make our experience better for future clients? Detailed qualitative information, with words and descriptors, is more useful than numerical rating, for example, with no additional information provided.
Use a survey generator such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to make the process easier.
Look for trends, and don’t beat yourself up if your clients give you constructive feedback. You asked, after all! Feedback is a gift, and bad client experiences can be very costly.
Keep it short and sweet! Although we want to gather strong qualitative data, we don’t want to go overboard with the questions.
A simple series of questions like this should do the trick: “What did you love about working with us? What changes do you suggest for future projects? Would you recommend us to a friend, and why.”
You can also make it even shorter: “What are three words that you would use to describe your experience with us?” These three words will yield more than a simple number.
Be sure to thank them with an email, a coupon code, etc.
Define Your Client Experience Through Client Communication:
Consider these two scenarios: Emily is a wedding stationery designer. She rarely hears from her clients once packages arrive and wonders how her clients feel about the end result.
When clients follow up, there’s an objective reason why: “Thank you so much for creating our invitations. We love them! Is there any chance we can order an additional 10 envelopes?”
Here and there, Emily does receive some positive feedback, so she searches her email inbox to find these notes:
“Emily, we love the invitations! They are beautiful.”
“We have received so many compliments on our invitations.”
“You are so talented, thank you!”
Grace is also a wedding stationery designer. She often hears from her clients once her final product is delivered.
This feedback is client-initiated and absent of any other request, comment, or note.
The positive feedback is directed more at the experience than the final result, and when the final result is considered, it’s noted that the order went beyond expectations:
“Grace, you absolutely blew us away. The invitations are more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.”
“While we loved the invitations you created for us, we loved getting to know you even more. We hope there will be more opportunities to work together in the future.
“You made this experience stress-free and enjoyable.”
“You took away all of our anxieties.”
“You captured exactly who we are as a couple.”
Notice the difference here? Emily’s feedback hints at an experience that output-focused. Emily’s clients are generally satisfied and state the obvious, that hand-lettered stationery is beautiful. Granted, some clients are less descriptive and wordy than others, and it’s possible that a client who provides this type of feedback is overjoyed with your service. However, it’s important to analyze the trends of your feedback. Are you always getting general feedback? If so, it may be time to alter your experience.
Grace’s feedback, on the other hand, hints at more abstract satisfaction. This feedback indicates an experience that met and exceeded expectations and focused on personal relationships. There are also lots of details that suggest a great experience: “stress-free and easy” are all words that suggest that timelines have been clear and the overall experience was seamless.
Map An Average Client Interaction
Another way to gather additional data on your client experience is to hone in on an average client interaction—one that wasn’t remarkably positive or remarkably negative. Map out that experience from beginning to end, state all of your steps and your clients’ responses, and imagine what the experience was like from your client’s perspective. If you provide a service, it’s likely that you will be able to use an email exchange to map out your interaction.
Here’s an example:
1/15/17: Client sends inquiry
1/19/17: Client sends follow up to original request
1/18/17: You respond to inquiry with a few questions for the client
1/19/17: Client responds and asks for info guide
At every step, you should be able to make some inferences about how your client felt at that stage in the process and what you could do to improve. You can also note where you see strengths in your own process. In the example above, this client clearly expects a response sooner than four days. While there is plenty of debate about reasonable expectations for email responses, it’s wise to respond to inquiries as soon as possible. If you have an irregular schedule, use an auto-responder to send out helpful information and reassure your potential client that you will return her email in a specified time frame. In the second interaction, you’re sending your client questions. This indicates that your inquiry form may not capture the information that you need to immediately engage your client. It’s also clear that the client followed up on the 19th to learn more info. This creates an additional step for the client, when pricing and information could have been shared in the previous step. While sharing prices immediately doesn’t work for every business, it’s perfectly reasonable to share a helpful blog post or other resource from the very start—to make the process easier for your client.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this: when we fail to analyze our past experiences with our clients, we miss opportunities to grow. Some of us are afraid to ask for feedback from our clients, but put yourselves in their shoes. Anytime a business asks me for my feedback, I feel valued. I am usually very careful about my response and try to provide positive feedback if there’s something negative about the experience that I’m sharing. Trust that your clients will be gentle with you and will help you identify the blind spots in your process that you may never realize if you are “in the weeds” of your day-to-day projects.
Next week, in our third and final installment, I’ll share a process of defining a plan for client experience, one that includes a PDF printable for your drafting.