Pamela Rigling Caffrey, Director of Marketing at John Poe Architects, Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, responded yesterday, as I did, to this question posed by another Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) member on the SMPS listserve:
My firm is investigating the implementation of a Customer Satisfaction Survey that will be administered to clients after the completion of projects.
I have been tasked with developing a handful of questions that would be asked of each individual.
I'm curious if there are any other firms who also conduct this type of survey and if you would be willing to share the questions you are asking?
I responded citing some previous entries in this blog:
But, frankly, Pamela's response is much better:
Everyone: There is a lot of literature about customer satisfaction surveys, with special interest in the "Net Promoter Score" (Fred Riechheld) -- the indication of whether a client is likely to recommend your business/service to others.
Trouble is, it can be a challenge to get people to respond to your survey, and the actual surveying process can both be intrusive and irritating (and efforts can be made to 'game' the results). This makes formal structured surveys, either in person or online, somewhat debatable for high value/low volume services that I believe most SMPS members provide.
I would love to develop a practical survey where we could obtain adequate response without client irritation/intrusion because the client "net promoter" numbers would be a truly useful and effective cross check against pure financial/cost/revenue/profit
measures -- certainly as an indication of future business health (and to justify employee bonuses, as well).
I've blogged on this topic a few times; this blog entry leads to information about Riechheld's thesis (and controversy about it):
and this entry reviews the practicality of using e-surveys(common for retailers and high volume marketers:
Absolutely correct! Client satisfaction surveys may have a place for mass market products/services, but even these processes are often gamed by employees worrying more about the survey numbers than the meaningful relationships. If surveys are to be effective, they need to be natural and non-intrusive and totally voluntary (in other words, I think it is virtually impossible to achieve positive results by using telemarketing techniques to draw out responses -- the pure act of making the outbound telemarketing call is an often unwelcome intrusion on the client's life -- if it is a scripted survey call, rather than a meaningful check-in to assure that all went well.)
It is critical to communicate with clients not only at the completion of a project, but throughout it's duration. As you well know, many clients have multiple projects in the works. Lagging in client services at the 30 or 40 per cent completion phase may cost you the next job.
I also think it's very important in our industry not to let e-mail and survey instruments and other non-personal tools overshadow the vital nature of direct human contact! Rather than create a survey, why not take the client to lunch regularly throughout the project or call them on the phone?
So much is lost in not observing the non-verbals. When you meet with the client or talk to them directly, I would always give them the opportunity to do all the talking. Make sure they have the chance to discuss their relationship with your staff assigned to their job with candor. I think it's also critical for design firms to monitor the service and responsiveness of sub consultants and contractors. This can be very helpful in determining who you team with the next time! And don't forget to ask them what projects they have coming up.
Marketers should run away from phrases like "administering surveys"! It's all about people and relationships!