Client surveys can help integrators maintain customer relationships
When we speak with integrators about client surveys, we often hear, “We don’t use them anymore because people don’t return them.”
Or worse, “We get some back, but nobody reads them.”
And that’s too bad.
A client survey, when used properly, serves multiple purposes in the client relationship. But it must be part of a larger effort.
Integration companies and account managers should address the process of using surveys during the sales and proposal phase of a project. Integrators should explain that surveys are an integral part of their firm’s project implementation process, referencing them in documentation, highlighting survey milestones in the schedule, and even showing clients past results.
Informing a client that the president of your integration company personally (and randomly) selects five percent of clients to survey shows executive commitment. And using survey data in the sales and proposal phase of a project establishes credibility with prospective clients; credibility that
- Your organization cares about and tracks what clients think, and
- That it uses that information to improve itself and maintain long-term client relationships.
You can present survey data to potential clients around the time you discuss your company’s vision, as well as your values and ethics.
Doing so demonstrates alignment between what your company says it stands for, and how past and current clients perceive you. Alignment among vision and strategy, consistent action, and a disciplined approach to improvement are compelling messages, especially when backed up by bountiful client data, spanning months or years.
In the end, the purpose of the client survey is to capture alignment or disparity between perceptions.
It is not a tool to be gamed.
We have sometimes heard people ask their clients, “Remember, you’ll be getting a survey at the end of the project. I sure would appreciate it if you gave us a good score.”
How might that make a client feel?
They’re probably wondering whether you really want their opinion or you’re just looking for data that makes you look and feel good.
Try this instead: “As part of our project-implementation process, you and other key stakeholders will be receiving a survey. We take your responses seriously and ask that you participate and tell the truth about your experience with us. Our goals are constant improvement and professional and lasting client relationships.”
How might the client feel after that conversation?
How to approach client surveys
After submitting a proposal and during the kick-off meeting with the client, it’s important to introduce all the key project stakeholders. It is also important to inform them of the value of their opinions, both during the project-implementation phase and post-commissioning.
As the project enters the commissioning phase, the project manager and/or lead technician should be securing sign-offs of the final checklists (substantial completion and service transition) and informing the client’s stakeholder’s that they will soon be receiving the survey, which is part of the close-out package.
When all this happens in a predictable fashion — and you share data with the client — your company’s credibility grows.
Of course, being diligent about surveys can’t be the only thing your AV company is disciplined and professional about. It is assumed here that your organization has committed itself to increasing the level of sales, project, installation, and management maturity across all of its processes.
Adding a survey is the culmination of these processes, not a short-cut or a shiny ribbon on a terribly wrapped broken present.
Stay tuned for Part II of this discussion when we show you how to create the ultimate client survey for your integration business, along with the questions you should be asking.
By Brad Malone, VP of Professional Services at Solutions360, and VP Consulting at Navigate Management Consulting