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Do you ever fill out those feedback cards in restaurants? You know, the ones that arrive with the bill. Today, these types of ‘follow on’ surveys are everywhere. You’ll get them if you’re eating at a restaurant, staying in a hotel or even if BT has changed a couple of wires around at your house. But, here’s why I’m not a fan…

These types of surveys are from businesses that I’d call “transactional”. They’d like to know how you found their service for their own benefit. And that’s it. For me, these surveys aren’t a sign of investing in a long-term relationship. The people who hand them out aren’t really trying to get to know you – they’re simply wanting to tick boxes.

If you really value your client relationships, then I think you need to invest face to face time – time that is detached from actual service delivery. We all say our clients are important so why wouldn’t we?

The difference between ‘transactional’ and ‘relationship’

Just over a year ago now, we set up a new, annual survey for seeking feedback from our clients. Only, I wanted to make sure we weren’t just asking people things we wanted to know. I wanted to make sure we were doing this for both of us. A way to hear about the things we’re doing well and the opportunities to get better together.

You might think it’s easy for us to say – accountancy and business advice lends itself to this approach. But that’s not necessarily true. Even auditors can be transactional. Lots of our new clients say they’ve been fed up with a previous auditor turning up once a year to “just do the audit”. There’s no relationship. They’re in and out and then they’ll see you next year – “fill out this survey for us, perhaps?”.

So how do you do it?

Over the year, here are some of the things we’ve done and learnt along the way. We do these to make sure when we ask for feedback, we’re still focused on building a relationship:

 Who’s it for? – I always go to a meeting with the same question in my head: “How can we be better?”. What more can we do to make your business better and help you with the issues you face? We know the usual client or customer advocacy surveys are too focused on what the business wants to know rather than what the client wants to say.

  Face to face – we’ve found you’ve got to invest a lot of time in doing it. You need to invest in face to face meetings, rather than just bashing out surveys by post, or text or e-mail.

 Accept your assumptions are wrong – Over the years, I’ve learnt assumptions can be wrong. You’ll only find this out when you take the time to meet people.

 Regular – we try and meet everyone every three years – and every year we’ll seek meaningful feedback. If it’s not a visit that year, it’ll be a phone call or an advocacy survey that we’ll follow up on. We host annual and topical events too.

 Share – I’ve found these meetings often become a sharing of business issues. People love talking about their businesses but learning about what other businesses have done too. Our clients are interested in our business. They want to be advised by someone who’s ambitious and successful. It’s good that we have things in common too – they aspire to grow and share similar values.

 The measurement isn’t your only score – Client advocacy scores out of ten can always be better. But true success comes from people proactively recommending you. We always ask people, “Would you recommend us?” – and you shouldn’t be ashamed of asking this.

Invest the time and you’ll reap the rewards – and you can celebrate the fact that your clients are prepared to invest their time too to help the relationship get better.

How does your business gather feedback? If you’re interested in talking about anything to do with what I mentioned above, ask me anything.


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