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Managing Partners: Follow Up On Client Surveys

Many firms now conduct client surveys regularly. This is a great leap forward from just a few years ago. Handled correctly, the surveys can be a valuable research and marketing tool. Handled poorly, however, they can be detrimental.

When you conduct a survey, you ask your client to take time from his day to help you get better at what you do. Most clients, I’ve found, are willing to help when asked. And most often, the surveys return generally favorable results. That feels great and lets you know what you do well. The danger of client surveys lies in not dealing with those that aren’t so good. Maybe the professional in charge of that client is lousy at doing things on time or at returning phone calls (a common complaint, as discussed in the cover article); maybe the bill is in a format that irritates this particular client; maybe the client feels left out of the process and feels anxious about information gaps.

The important thing to remember is that if the client feels strongly enough to complain, you simply must respond. If the problem is with the professional in charge, you need to talk directly with that partner, find out what is happening on his side of the desk (without accusing him of anything) and then work together to resolve the client’s problem. This often is not easy, but it’s a lot easier and cheaper than replacing a dissatisfied client. You also need to contact the client and let him know you are aware of his complain and what you have done in response.

Without doubt, the worst thing you can do is ask a client what he thinks and then do nothing when he says something is bothering him. If you don’t want to know, don’t ask.

On the flip side of this issue, good client comments can become a marketing tool and morale builder. You can broadcast these good comments throughout the firm as a way of patting the professional on the back and letting other professionals know what good service is, as seen through the eyes of a client. Further, the professional receiving good comments on a survey now has a reason to call that client and thank him for his kind words. And that’s another opportunity to sustain a good relationship.

© Melinda Guillemette 2009