This is a topic I get asked about a lot and reoccurring questions are usually wonderful topics for blog articles. How often and in what format should inbound agency owners be talking to your clients about the performance of your agency and the performance of your inbound marketing program?
I know a lot of you are working directly with your inbound marketing agency clients. I know many of you want to be working less with clients and working on the agency more. Even if you’re working with clients day to day, getting client feedback from them on overall performance is something you should create a system for going forward.
Having tired almost everything to stay close to our inbound marketing clients, I’ll share the pluses and minuses of various client satisfaction monitoring systems we’ve used and why we do what we do today.
The Check In Call, When You DON'T Work Directly With Them
This is what we currently do. Since I don’t work directly with most of the clients, my call starts with an email asking for 20 minutes of their time to check in. Since I’m not involved in the day to day, they appreciate the proactive outreach. I try to get around to almost every client over the course of the quarter. With up to 40 active clients, this can get tricky.
After they get back to my email and we have a time on the calendar, I call them. The call is all about them. My goal is get them talking about their experience. What’s been great? What’s been good? What could be better? What was beyond their expectations? What might have been below? I’m looking for all types of feedback. We talk about the team. We talk about the program. We talk about their company. The best calls are the ones where the client asks me how we think they’re doing.
After the call, I share the feedback with the client team and if any adjustments or changes needs to be made, we’ll talk about that too. This also gives me an opportunity to start building the friendly relationship I want with our clients. I want them to be honest with me and I want an opportunity to be honest with them. When we can talk, like friends, I’ve found the engagements run longer and are much more productive for both us and our clients. It’s not something we have with all our clients, but it’s something we aspire towards.
The Check In Call, When You DO Work With Them
When you work with your clients on a day to day basis. Your interactions with them are very tactical. You set the agendas, you set the objectives, you’re working to gain approvals, move the projects forward and provide updates on progress. Often there’s not enough time to get productive and constructive feedback.
Even if you’re working with clients day to day, my suggestion is to carve out another opportunity to connect with them on a different level. The call I described above should be added to your already planned and accounted for interactions. By reaching out and checking in separately from your regular sessions you’ll show them you care on another level, it will ensure you get time to talk about feedback without your team and it’s going to help you build that relationship so critical to success.
This approach is also going to set you up for the day, that’s coming soon, when you’re NOT working on their account. By having this regular check in, you’re able to tell your client, they’re still going to hear from you. It’s going to make the transition much easier and less scary for your clients.
The Check In Email
Everyone is busy, so it’s tempting to try to collect feedback via email. By making the outreach personal, instead of an automated survey, it’s a step in the right direction. You might even find clients who prefer this method. They’re busy too and this is easy.
However, a lot can get lost in email and there’s no way for you to follow up and ask additional questions or clarify their comments. The clients will appreciate the check in and the email format will be easy for them to get back to you, but it’s not going to create the friendly relationships you want with your clients.
The Customer Service Survey
Looking to automate the process even further? Then you’re going to look at automated survey tools. The regular survey, monthly, quarterly, or annually that goes out to clients. They complete the survey and you get an update via the survey tool. Sounds great, right? Sure. It’s scalable, easy to execute, consistent, it seems like a lot of positives.
Except, there are some limitations to this approach. First, it’s not exactly personal. No matter how personal the survey, it’s obviously from survey software. But that’s not really the big issue. The biggest issue is that you’re not going to get enough feedback to sustain the automated survey effort.
You have to figure out the right frequency. Monthly is too often, clients feel like you’re bothering them and they just did a survey a few weeks ago. That’s actual feedback from a client of mine, when we did this. Then you’ll move to quarterly. Believe it or not, every three months in survey time is too frequent also. Not for the feedback, but for the survey. It just starts to get very repetitive, very clinical, and too systematic. Once clients stop filling it out, the effort becomes worthless and you want to avoid that at all costs.
Now what? Semi-annual surveys? Now you’re looking at a period that is too infrequent for you to be responsive if there are issues. I think you’re starting to see how problematic this approach was for us.
The Net Promotor Score Survey
In response to our survey experience, we moved to a more frequent automated approach but limited the question to the NPS question and a comment. Our thinking—clients can answer one question more frequently without feeling bothered and we can respond based on the score. Clearly nines and tens need no attention, seven and eights need follow up for clarification and anything else needs a rapid responsive to fix what might be failing.
This method also gives us a metric for the entire company and data to help us direct our client services upgrades. Unfortunately, the net promoter question, how likely would you be to refer this company to a friend, colleague or family member? Isn’t as straight forward as you might think, so the data we collected wasn’t as helpful as we expected.
Some clients refused to give us high scores on principle, “I never give nines or tens on surveys, ” other clients could not score us based on the work we did and wanted to wait, the more concessions we made the less valuable the score. Eventually, it seemed like the wrong question for a high-end professional services engagement like ours.
You can see we’ve gone full circle on this, coming back to the live, check in calls, done on a frequent basis. Even as we’ve grown, I make time each week to reach out and talk to clients. The feedback is incredibly valuable and the feelings the client get, knowing I care enough to contact them, helps us sustain a very high renewal rate.
In all honestly, the tools and techniques aren’t quite as important as your desire to check in with your clients. What’s most important is that you care enough to check in with them, check in regularly and that you’ve fostered a relationship that allows them to be completely honest with you about your team, your engagement and the results you’re getting them.
Speaking of getting feedback, last week I sent out a survey to all the email subscribers and had the good fortune of sending it right at the time of the partial internet outage. A few of you emailed me to let me know that the links in the survey were not working. Thank you! If you tried the links, could you give me the courtesy of trying again, click here. If you were too busy to take the three-question survey last week. I would really appreciate your feedback and input. Click here to access the survey. Thanks, in advance.
Start Today Tip – When you start thinking about scaling up your business, staying connected to clients is key to growing your team while maintaining the quality of the experience and the deliverables. Whether you opt for the survey, email, phone call or in person feedback session—the key is creating the system. The other key is participation. If you’re not getting clients to participate and provide feedback, then you need to continue to adjust the system until you get solid and consistent feedback. That’s how you know when you’ve got the right system for your agency.
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