I recently met an old friend after a long gap of almost twenty years and after remarking on how little change we saw in each other (actually he had gone fat & grey and I was getting fat and bald), we got down to reminiscing about the good-old-days when we used to play hockey and football together.
Now, this old friend of mine, used to be considered as a tough nut on the field and I used to be quite wary of him while playing on the team opposite him - so it came as quite a shock to me when he said that he had been very reluctant to play opposite to me and used to always try to get on my team as he was somewhat afraid of me!
As I recall, I used to consider myself a fairly decent player who was “tough but not rough” on the field, and this was a real eye-opener for me.
So it got me thinking and I realized how my views of myself differed substantially from my team-mates’ views of me. Where I saw myself as simply playing (hard) to win, others saw me as someone it was better not to cross on the field. On further introspection I realised that the actual picture was probably something in-between - but perhaps substantially closer to my friend’s view than my own.
This made me realise that what applies on a personal level, more often than not also finds a parallel in the work place and in corporate life.
Frequently, we chug along merrily thinking all is well and only start to wonder what is wrong when we find we are slowly loosing clients and repeats are not happening. Whether it is a development project, an implementation, a maintenance project or even back-office support - you feel that ‘we are doing a wonderful job’.
And yet your clients are leaving in droves!
Use a mirror
The most effective, and perhaps the simplest, way to guard against a situation like the above is to ask your clients what they think about you and the services you are providing them – this will give you insights into what the client expects and, more importantly, what the client’s pain areas are.
This way you will be able to address issues that are of importance to the client and correct minor irritations before they become major issues.
How to look
Getting informal feedback from the client will certainly help but to be really effective, feedback should be obtained from clients on a regular basis and in a structured manner so as to allow measurements and comparison on various levels:
· A long term client’s feedback over time
· Comparison between different clients serviced by one team
· Compare performance of teams across the organisation
· Take steps to address deficiencies and grievances of clients
· Measure effectiveness of steps taken above
A standardized feedback form should be used across the organisation, it must include points that are important from the client’s perspective, and should also allow the client to grade and comment on each point.
The feedback process should, as far as possible, not directly involve the team working with the client - and if a Quality department exists, it would be a good idea for them to solicit client feedback.
Clean the mirror
While most clients will welcome the opportunity to express their point of view, there are many clients who will not feel this is important and will need to be coaxed into giving their feedback.
There will also be situations where you will need to exercise caution in reading the feedback provided – sometimes a client will want to quickly get over the request for feedback and will simply mark all points average (or very good) depending on their mood or may even allow their own discontent color their judgement.
Remember, while it is always easy to think that ‘we are providing the best services’ or ‘the client can never be satisfied’, Gandhi’s advice that “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises…” applies equally to all businesses from corner shops to corporates.
You will need to keep yourself regularly updated on what your customers think about your services and how you could make them feel better about what you are selling them.
As long as you keep these ideals in mind, you will not go far wrong and your customer base will grow.
Kamal Changezi, Senior Manager, Direction -
Veteran in the IT industry with overall 25 years of experience, associated with Direction for last 14 years handling the Operations and Administration. Famously known as the encyclopedia of Direction.