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Get feedback from clients to improve

External consultants can help elicit ‘warts and all’ feedback from firms. By Victoria Connell

Have you ever heard the saying that you are only as good as your last job? So how do you know how good you were? The only way is to ask your client.

Client feedback is crucial. You can only improve a service if you know where it is strong and where it is weak.

There are a number of ways to know what clients think. Many contractors and construction professionals use the cheapest and least recommended, which is a questionnaire.

It can get lost among the hundreds of emails that people receive or end up in a pile of post that requires action at some point - often never. This method also requires work on the part of the client.

While clients with which you have a good relationship are likely to respond, those that have an issue will not make the time.

A second method is to hold a post-project review, an initiative usually organised and executed in-house. This uses existing resources and shows that you care what your client thinks.

However, the client may feel uncomfortable being entirely honest with you, if you are the one conducting the review, and may not use the opportunity to express his true feelings.

The third approach is the best. It consists of appointing an external consultant to conduct a review. A consultant can gather perceptions by phone or, better still, face-to-face and is proven to elicit the most frank feedback. The process will capture -perceptions, ideas and concerns, identify strengths and weaknesses, highlight any threats to the relationship, uncover improvements in client and employee management and identify what clients really value about your approach.

Collect testimonials

Another advantage of a face-to-face meeting is that the consultant can respond to your client’s comments and body language, exploiting opportunities to educate them about you as a company. This can provide opportunities for cross-selling and identify if there is another project for you.

From a marketing perspective, the whole process can also encourage clients to provide testimonials on performance that can be used to win more work.

Feedback does not need to be limited to clients - it can include staff and external team members. It enables a contractor or subcontractor to establish its current market positioning, determine whether those within the organisation have the same view as those outside it, and show how much the perception needs to be adjusted.

Whichever option you choose, always ask for feedback and act on the good and the bad.

Victoria Connell is director of marketing communications consultancy The Holistic Group and a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group Committee