Client Satisfaction Surveys: 5 Ways to Blow Them. And How to Ace Them
Client satisfaction surveys have become SOP for many businesses. Every call to my bank or stop at my Starbucks is followed up by an automated survey. (By the way - if a visit to Starbucks is the “best part of my day,” I consider it a pretty bad day).
Agencies have started to send client satisfaction surveys, too. It’s a great opportunity to receive valuable insights on how the agency can improve its work and relationship with clients, creating a foundation for a productive conversation about agency strengths and areas to improve.
Unfortunately, many agencies send client satisfaction surveys so they can check that box, instead of learning and improving. Some agencies rationalize and refute the results as soon as they get them. Their responses include:
1) “The results only reflect the past few months, not the entire year.” That may be true. An agency might earn a positive review in the first part of the year, and then after some staff changes, missed deadlines, or errors, receive a negative review. It may not seem fair, but if it accurately reflects how the client feels now, it has to be responded to as the way things are.
2) “The negative feedback is from junior clients. The senior clients love us.” All clients are important, and all client feedback is meaningful. If the junior clients are unhappy, they will tell their bosses—who eventually will accept the feedback or let them explore other agency options to reduce the noise. Even if senior clients protect the agency, eventually these clients will move on, and the junior clients will take on more responsibility, and likely decide to change agencies. Every client, no matter how new/young/inexperienced, matters. And you may be interacting with them a lot longer than a senior client who may move on, up, or retire.
3) “I spoke to the client. We are good.” Sometimes agencies react to reviews by meeting with clients and explaining why their feedback is wrong. Often, the clients may appear to understand and even agree with the agency. Don’t be fooled. Chances are, the client is not in agreement, but has decided not to get into a debate with the agency, since it probably won’t matter—after all, the agency asked for feedback and rejected it. Think of it like going to a restaurant and having a bad experience—poor service, bad food—and when the waiter asks how everything is, you say, “fine.” Not because it is fine, but because you are not coming back to the restaurant and are not emotionally invested in their success. I once saw a fantastic sign behind the counter at a department store famous for its outstanding service. “Nobody ever won an argument with a customer.”
4) “This is ‘as good as it gets.’ The client doesn’t give positive reviews.” It’s true that reviews can be subjective, and some clients are easier graders than others. And some clients will never give a perfect score for fear that the agency will become complacent. However, in most cases, the less-than-perfect reviews come with real, actionable feedback on how to improve. Ignoring that feedback and assuming your agency is being graded on a curve is a missed opportunity.
5) “The client doesn’t get it.” Certainly, agencies can highlight completed work, awards won, and even sales results, as evidence of their outstanding performance. While these metrics are necessary, they are not sufficient for success. Client reviews reflect the way the client experiences the agency. While it includes the quality of the work, it is primarily a reflection of the way the agency behaves, in both critical moments and everyday interactions, that can earn the clients’ loyalty, trust, and confidence, or whittle it away.
If you accept the feedback and respond openly and sincerely, the client who is invested in the agency’s success (or even one who isn’t) will be impressed and feel that the agency is invested in them. Ignoring or rationalizing client input is a signal to clients that the agency is not interested in learning—or the relationship—and is often a precursor to losing the business.
These behaviors can also be applied when clients conduct their reviews of the agency.
So listen calmly. Respond graciously. Discuss ways to improve. Then take action. The next feedback you receive will have a much more satisfying outcome—for both clients and agency.
Stacey Singer is a Client Retention and Growth Specialist. You can reach her at (908) 313-6539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.