The importance of client feedback

How client feedback can help protect your organisation

Now that many of us are getting back into flying again, I reflected on a pre-covid experience that taught me a lot about the importance of client feedback.

Flying seems to trigger odd behaviours in many of us. It can also induce heightened levels of expectations on several fronts.

I reckon we can apply this to much of our work – even our stakeholder engagement processes…

The back-story

A while back I flew on an early flight from Perth to Melbourne. As I had carry-on luggage and my laptop, I marched straight toward the security screening, happy in the knowledge that I had plenty of breathing space to catch my flight.

And there it loomed – the long, snaking line to get through security, full of people who were hurrying up to wait. Of the five possible X-ray machines available only three were in operation.

What took my eye straight away was one guy in the business class line, which had stretched to at least 32 people by now! Upon joining the line, he immediately grabbed his phone and took an arms-length picture of those in front of him.

One guess as to where that picture was going!

First instructional moment

  • People’s expectations are high when they’ve paid a premium price (think Mr Business Class)
  • Airing complaints online is becoming the norm – even without a business being given the chance to address them
  • Recent data shows that people airing a complaint via social media expect a response within two hours

I got through security in about 15 minutes, OK, but could be better.

Still, it was a massive improvement on my previous Sunday morning encounter at the airport, where I and over 200 other grumpy, shuffling passengers waited over 30 minutes to get through security.

Now here’s the telling part of the story…

When I voiced, my unhappiness as I was being frisked by the security staff, they suggested I speak to the airline – it’s their gate. When I got to the airline desk the attendant apologetically said you can only complain ‘online.’ As I tried to do this I found it difficult to find exactly where to lodge my complaint and ran out of time before I got on my flight. So instead of having some closure, I got to take this experience around with me for the rest of my trip…

The second instructional moment

  • I’m precious – and this seems to be a condition that afflicts many people at airports
  • I was under (imagined) pressure – I didn’t want to miss my flight
  • Two attempts to complain were stymied

Making amends

In fairness to the airline, we’re friends again. After the Sunday morning encounter I flew on to Sydney. On my way back I arrived early at the airport (thanks to the good folks at Sydney Rail.) A request to get on an earlier flight home was granted – at no extra cost – the only condition being “You’d better run, because the flight just closed!” I made it and was home at least two hours early.

Third instructional moment

  • The airline did me a huge favour at no extra cost – they made up for my previous grumpiness and I’ve become less precious
  • Sydney Rail got a thumbs up for running an efficient service – all the way to the airport (take note Melbourne!)

Why bother with getting client feedback?

1. You’ll know that you have a problem before the rest of the world does (remember the online expectation)Client feedback
2. You’ll have the chance to fix any problem quickly to provide closure
3. You’ll have the chance to learn from the issue and build on it in the future.

Making this your reality

Any business or organisation that makes a genuine attempt to seek and use customer feedback is a smart one. And as simple as this sounds, all you have to do is ask. You can do this by:

  • Sending out a short (three minute tops) online survey to a client or workshop attendees
  • Scheduling a debrief or feedback session at the completion of your workshop or project
  • Scheduling a phone call to get client feedback
  • Organising a coffee or lunch appointment with your client

What to ask
Drawing on Dorothy Strachan’s What/So What/Now What model, you could try:

What So What Now What
Planning phase What were the most useful elements of the planning process?

What were the challenges?

How did this impact on the delivery phase? What could we fine tune in the planning phase?
Delivery phase What worked well on the day?

What didn’t work so well?

How did this affect the process? What could’ve been done differently?
Follow-up phase How well was the workshop/project/report wrapped up? How has this impacted your work? What assistance would you like in the future?

Key points in seeking client feedback

  • Train yourself to seek feedback and treat it as an opportunity to learn from your clients or stakeholders
  • Make it easy for people to provide feedback
  • Fix any problems quickly

Of course, if you need a hand in designing your engagement processes, or seeking and incorporating feedback, please get in touch

Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

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