Am I doing a good job?

Most of us, as individuals or collectively as a company, think that we are doing a pretty good job. That’s generally a good thing, unless of course others, like our clients, think otherwise.

So how do we find out what our clients think of us and the work we do?

The most common way is to circulate a questionnaire with canned questions and politely ask the clients to spend a few minutes to answer the questions “to help us serve you better… bla bla bla…”. There are several problems with this method:

  • People are too busy or (like me) don’t like to spend time answering questionnaires
  • The questions don’t necessarily address the problematic issues
  • The answers are generally as canned as the questions
  • It is difficult for someone to explain negative aspects of a collaboration without eye contact, so they generally avoid to
  • You will probably get responses from people who really like you, or from those who really hate you. How about the ones in between, who have something constructive to say, but for different reasons, do not respond?

The best way to get feedback is to actually talk to your clients and ask them directly. We, at d-e, have adopted a method that works well (I think so anyway):

A few months after a project is completed, we prepare a report we call “Project Closure Account”, where we try to put ourselves in our client’s shoes and we judge our own performance. We focus on our mistakes and on areas where we think we can improve. We write these thoughts down as objectively as possible. We also include thoughts about our client’s performance. (This is a tricky task and you ought to be careful, but honest. If you can’t be honest don’t bother).

We then arrange a meeting with the client, where we present the report and our thoughts. At this point, we have created the right conditions for the client to be open and honest about their thoughts and for us to listen to their criticism, suggestions or thoughts.

It is important to let some time pass (usually a few months) after the project is completed, before this discussion takes place. By then everyone has a more objective view of things, they have distanced themselves from the little tiny details that seem important at the time and are able to view the project as a whole relieved from the usual stress of project delivery.

We have found that there is no better way to close a project. We learn things, we become better, we mend any old wounds, and the clients seem to appreciate the chance to discuss their thoughts eye to eye.

So, don’t send questionnaires. Talk instead.