A general counsel of a large international consulting firm told us about his experience talking to an interviewer who had called to discuss his satisfaction level with his outside law firm. He had been using the services of a "high end, expensive" law firm out of New York.
We asked if the interview questions allowed him to speak about all the issues that
were on his mind regarding his relationship with his lawyers. His response was,
"There were many small things that had been bothering me about our law firm but
none that I thought were big enough to discuss with them. This interview allowed
me to get some things off my chest."
That's interesting, but his next comment floored us. "I know now if those issues
had gone unchecked I may have gotten to such a level of annoyance I would have
shopped for another law firm." That's pretty explosive. In other words, if his high-
priced law firm had not taken the initiative to determine the loyalty levels of their
key clients, they wouldn't have known about accounts that were silently in jeopardy.
He told us he would not have responded to a traditional survey!
When we talk to our clients' customers, we know we must ask the questions that
allow the customer to respond with information that will be of value to our client. In
the previous story, the upper management in the law firm can now act on
information that's of significant business value. We won't argue, by the way, that
they used the most effective method of gaining real information about what resides
in the heads of their customers. People respond well to personal interviews using
open-ended questions that allow them to use their own words. It's those very
words and thoughts that must be captured, not the responses to questions created
by survey designers.
Speaking of surveys. If your company surveys your customers regularly, don't be
mislead into thinking that you understand what is in the heads of your customers.
There is a difference between gathering information and allowing people to vent,
which requires specialists (like Davis, Kingsley & Company).
Surveys collect point-in-time responses using pre-determined answers. However,
it's difficult and sometimes impossible to find out how to improve business
performance in any area. You might get information about what's broken but
unless a company lets customers express their own thoughts, they won't have solid
information on what and how to improve things. Surveys have limits on the value
they can offer. Upper management should know this.
The "high-end law firm from New York" dodged a bullet by finding out what's in
their blind spot. The cost of not asking or not knowing could have lost them a great
deal of business. Ask the right questions, allow customers the freedom to speak
their mind and analyze their feedback to be of solid value to make improvements.
Does your firm have a process to capture what resides in the thoughts and minds of
your key clients? Can you afford to leave it unattended?
Darcie Davis, President of Davis, Kingsley & Company is a
management consultant, speaker, author and trainer. She works with
companies to secure genuine feedback from their clients before advising
them on strategic decisions about sales, marketing, and operations. Her
advice will keep your clients out of the jaws of the competition.
Learn more about Customer Satisfaction and Feedback Programs
offered by Darcie and her firm at http://www.DavisKingsley.com