By Andrew Neitlich

A Quick Way to Improve Client Relationships and Your Own Capabilities

By Andrew Neitlich

Here’s a challenge for you. If you take it, you will improve your client relationships and your own capabilities. However, it takes guts to do this and I understand that most of you won’t.

1. Find an impartial colleague who you trust and who is professional.

2. Have that individual contact each of your current and past clients (or most of them). Send a letter/email letting your clients know they will be contacted.

3. Have your colleague ask these questions about you (after a professional introduction stating that you have engaged him or her to learn how to improve your service, and asking if they would prefer responses to be confidential or shared):
– What 1-3 things did they like most about your work?
– What advice would they have for you to improve — in terms of quality, process, communication, attitude, professionalism, etc.
– How do you compare to other Web professionals they might have engaged before? What are relative strengths and weaknesses?
– What do they say about you to colleagues? Why?
– Would they recommend you to colleagues?
– Would they engage you again?
– If they were going to write a marketing slogan describing your company, what might the slogan say? (Or, how do they perceive you in the market place in terms of cost, quality, and service)?
– What else do they have to say about your work?

Then compile the results and find out what you learned. Follow up with clients to thank them for participating, and ask non-defensive questions about feedback that was not labeled as confidential.

When I do this, I get more work, learn more about my strengths and weaknesses, get input about how to market my services, and build respect with my client base.

  • You’re right… many won’t do this, but I think it’s a time issue over anything else. What you’re suggesting would take some planning on top of everything else a web design firm does – also (most of our clients are busy too.

    But this would be a good way to get good feedback – clients usually aren’t completely honest with you and don’t want to upset the relationship, especially they are relying on you for support after the job is completed. We’ve actually done what you’ve suggested a few times (the results were interesting, but not surprising). Another method would be to ask referred clients what the referrer said about your company. Usually this is the best way to find out your strengths – it’s the direct reason why you’re getting more business!

  • Great post!

    I was curious why would you have a colleague do the survey and not the web design company? Are the respondents willing to give up more information if you have a colleague handle the survey? I would also think payment or some kind of compensation would be involved if you did ask a colleague for help, right?

  • Impartiality, in my book, is a negative. I don’t want anyone in my business, or even RELATED to my business, to be impartial towards my clients. I want them to love talking wiht the clients, I want them to have fun and be engaging… I want them to actually take the client’s needs and build their entire system of conversation around that.

    I have people I’ve worked with for years that email me regularly just to chat. I love that. One of my clients broke his leg last week on a camping trip… ouch! Made
    a fun story to tell too.

    Had some great pictures he took also (really good!).
    We branded the pictures and made a downloadable
    desktop theme with our 2 business names on it.

    If I don’t hear back from clients regularly… even years
    later (like once every few months or so), I’ll send them an email and see what’s up. Not a sales letter mind you, just a “Hey, how’s it going? How’s your son doing in baseball this year?” kindof thing. Professional? I don’t know. But it works, and people aren’t afraid to speak their minds either… if they hate something, great! Let them tell me so I can fix it.

    In my opinion (all 2 cents worth of it), if you need to use 3rd party surveys… you should probably re-evaluate your entire client communication process from the top down. A lot of people unintentionally close the lines of communication at some point.

  • gary

    I like this idea but i am wondering if a simple web form might not also work. I suppose the clients would need to trust you if you about not collecting an ip address, etc., for confidentiality, but it would be much simpler and quicker to post a survey in php and have the results emailed to you. I think i’ll use this idea for some soon-to-be-closing projects. Thanks!

  • grashoper

    My organization recently re-worked their entire project management system, this has greatly helped not only internal organization and workflow/project cycle, but also client relations. The tool is a hosted app, that helps you create and manage project throughout its

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