Although I founded Reputation Partners back in 2002, it wasn’t until 2009 that we decided to start surveying our clients. Why did we wait seven years? Well, in those first few years we were growing by 40-50% a year, almost all by word of mouth or reputation. So obviously, things were going great and there wasn’t a lot of time for reflection. And frankly, we just didn’t think about it.
But, by that point 12 years ago, we decided we wanted to have a better understanding of what appealed to our clients, what turned them off, and why. What brought clients to our firm and had them stay? Were there areas where we were falling short and could improve? Were there services we offered or could offer that would have appealed to them? What else could we learn by formally asking our clients what they thought?
So, we developed a pretty short (+/- 25 question) multiple choice survey using SurveyMonkey. We sent it to all of our individual contacts at all of our active clients at the time, as well as our contacts on the significant projects we worked on in the prior year and a half. We told them the survey was short (less than 10 minutes to complete), and how much we valued their input. And they responded.
We stuck to the original list of questions and have repeated the survey every two years since 2009. By this point, hundreds of clients have completed the survey.
Most importantly, year after year our survey reveals that there’s “a Reputation Partners way of doing things.” This has held true even as some clients and members of our staff have come and gone. And it has given very valuable feedback to act on.
Reviewing and applying the results
We learned we are consistently strong in areas such as proactivity, responsiveness, consistently delivering the results clients are looking for, working well with our clients’ teams, making sure they have access to our senior team and others. And our clients have communicated where they believe we need to improve, so we can act on it.
As we added new capabilities or strengthened existing ones, we added questions about our creative services and digital strategies. We asked for and acted on verbatim comments whenever a client took the time to add one.
But of all of the questions, the one I’m most proud of is the Net Promoter Score (NPS): “Would you recommend Reputation Partners?” With nearly 14 years of data now under our belts, I’m so proud of the fact that our long-term NPS is 99+%.
Now, let’s talk about you.
Does your organization survey your customers or clients? If so, do you find it valuable? If you don’t survey your clients, why not? If you haven’t thought about it, now would be an excellent time to begin.
It is amazing to me how few organizations do this consistently. It’s true that many consumer-facing brands do a good job of surveying their customers. Like their ridiculously long receipts, CVS is also known for instantaneously surveying customers after each visit. Even the airlines and car rental companies, not exactly known for superior customer service, frequently ask about customers’ experiences. But so many others don’t. It’s another question entirely whether they conduct surveys and then act on the results. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell.
I’m especially surprised when other professional services companies don’t survey their clients. In the year-and-a-half I worked at Ketchum in the 90s and the five-and-a-half years I worked at Edelman after that, I was not aware of a single broad client satisfaction survey being conducted. Sure, we did annual client reviews, but nothing where a client could give us feedback (anonymously if they preferred), and have it analyzed against others’ views for patterns and opportunities. Hopefully, in the many years since I left, the two firms have started them.
There’s so much worth hearing and acting upon when you survey your clients: where are you strongest? Why do customers and clients work – and stick – with you? What do they think you need to improve? Especially in this environment, where all of us in business are fighting to survive and thrive, why wouldn’t we all want to know and act on this information?
Who knows? You might not only end up with useful feedback, but data points of differentiation you can use as part of your own unique selling proposition.