Content Marketing Trainer, 5+ Years of Project Management and Digital Marketing Experience
July 17th, 2020
If you’ve been an IMPACT client for any length of time, you’ve probably been asked to give feedback about your experience with our team. However, some people think this is more of a formality and don’t understand exactly how much we value hearing from our clients: whether the feedback is good, bad, or somewhere in between.
One of our company’s guiding principles is the belief that fFeedback is a gGift – and we mean it! We not only welcome feedback, but we regularly ask for it and take action based on the responses we receive.
The truth is, we wouldn’t be the agency we are today without the feedback we’ve gotten over the past decade. So if there’s any question about whether we take feedback to heart, the answer is unequivocally, yes.
Let's talk a little more about why we value this feedback, some of the common challenges people have in sharing their feelings about working with us, how the feedback process works, and some stories of how this feedback has helped us continually provide the best service for our clients.
I’ve spoken with our Client Advocacy Team, made up of Tom Discipio and Dia Vavruska, to shed more light on this. I'll also share some of my own experience in receiving feedback from clients I've worked with as a Content Trainer.
Why does IMPACT value feedback so much? (Really, why?)
Tom: Our clients’ direct feedback is the ultimate source of truth that we use for improving the IMPACT experience and innovating on our services and products in a way that our clients will actually value.
We use your feedback in every major decision that we make as an organization and to validate future changes we’d like to make.
A rising tide lifts all boats, meaning, one client’s feedback can have a positive impact on how we serve all clients. It’s about constantly evolving.
Dia: Graciously receiving feedback is ingrained in our company culture. So many of our team members have read the book Thanks for the Feedback (it’s even a common work anniversary gift!) and see feedback as a blessing and opportunity for growth.
It’s especially important for a company like ours that is constantly evolving, iterating, and trying new things. Our clients help us learn from our mistakes and grow to make sure we're getting it right, and if we’re not, to find out why.
We’ve taken feedback on some products we’ve offered and reformatted, adjusted, and removed them based on the experience clients have had. The goal is to always solve for the client.
Main concerns/hesitations clients have about giving feedback
Giving feedback can be hard, especially when it’s something you were displeased about. It can be hard to have tough conversations like this in life in general, never mind with an agency you’re investing thousands of dollars with on a monthly basis (or for some, that makes it easier, hah!).
Here are some of the main concerns people may have or hesitations that come up when they’re approached for feedback:
It’s awkward to give feedback directly to that person I’m working with
I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings
It’s not going to matter
I don’t want to get anyone in trouble
Maybe it was my fault, not theirs
They may be asking for feedback, but they don’t mean it
They’re just going to get defensive/won’t really hear me
We hear you, and trust us, you’re not alone in these worries and concerns. However, our company culture puts this as a priority where radical candor is the best communication strategy we all practice and are receptive to.
Tom: Sometimes it can be painful to share feedback with someone you’ve formed a strong relationship with. People fear that honest and direct feedback will harm the other person or the relationship in general.
In other instances, people haven’t been prompted in the right way: “Please share your feedback” is very different compared to an approach like, “It’s important that we know the best way to improve for you, so I’ll ask that you share some specific areas we could be doing things better.”
Even with the right prompting, though, in many cases, a safe space for feedback hasn’t been created. People fear that the person or company receiving the feedback isn’t actually listening to it or taking it into consideration, and therefore view leaving feedback as meaningless.
Dia: It can be scary and uncomfortable to be honest and direct with your feedback because candor is hard. You might not want to hurt someone’s feelings or wonder if you’re being too critical. Or, maybe you don’t know how to give proper feedback and wonder if you’re complaining about the wrong thing.
Another issue we’ve seen is that someone might think they’ve given feedback, but it was so softened or vague that the recipient doesn’t hear what you’re trying to say or even consider it to be actual feedback. You need to be direct with your feedback and say what you mean.
We’d much rather receive direct feedback during our engagement and have an opportunity to improve your experience, versus after you’ve cancelled services and are telling us how we felt short after it’s too late.
When should people leave feedback?
Tom: People are most apt to give feedback when they’re prompted or after recently completing a major milestone while the thoughts are fresh in someone’s mind.
When someone sees something is really wrong or when they feel that something is going really well, those are normally the times people leave feedback.
However, it’s mostly when something goes wrong, as it's easier to complain when things are bad. That’s why we take a proactive approach to more frequently survey and prompt clients about how things are going, so if it’s a small thing, we can course-correct before it becomes anything more substantial.
Dia: IMPACT’s Client Advocacy Team reaches out to clients quarterly to see how things are going and to learn what would make it an even better experience for them. That said, our clients can contact us at any time to provide feedback on the work we’re doing together. This can be done by emailing the Client Advocacy Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by scheduling a meeting with their coach or consultant, Account Executive, Tom or myself.
What happens when a client leaves feedback
Tom: Every piece of feedback that’s submitted is delivered straight to our Client Advocacy Team for review. Feedback is so important to us that we track our response time to replying to your feedback as a key departmental metric. If we haven’t responded to you within four business hours, we’re doing a bad job.
The reason we have a Client Advocacy Team is to give our clients a voice inside of the organization. This team acts as a third party within your relationship with IMPACT, meaning that every piece of feedback that comes in is looked at in an unbiased way.
Dia: When you leave us feedback, we take action immediately to thank you for the feedback and strive to better understand the context behind it. This might involve asking to speak with you directly or encouraging you to leave a review online to share your feedback with others.
We then document and share that feedback internally, assessing common themes or patterns across our clients and prioritizing what needs to be addressed/uplifted throughout the organization accordingly.
We don’t automatically assume our team was “right:” we stand behind our name and truly function as our clients’ internal advocates. We always take an objective look at a situation to better understand the position of the client and focus on a solution.
Our job is to make sure our clients’ voices can be heard within the organization.
The bottom line is that we take action and track, measure, and assess our ability to improve and resolve any points of friction identified by our clients. We also make sure to celebrate the wins with our team.
What happens when people don’t leave feedback?
What often goes unasked, though, is what happens when a client doesn’t leave feedback.
When we don’t get feedback from our clients, our team is effectively in the dark about how the client feels about our relationship, and we are unable to find a solution for it (in the case of negative feedback), because the problem itself isn’t apparent to us.
In these cases, it’s common that feelings can boil up and affect the relationship negatively, most often in situations that could have been corrected if someone had spoken up.
In the cases of positive feedback about our team or services, not getting feedback also means that we might not further expand a product or service that is working exceptionally well.
Later in this article we’ll dig into some specific examples where you’ll see how some simple feedback has made the biggest difference in a client’s engagement with IMPACT.
At the end of the day, all of our clients are unique people, and we can’t read anyone’s minds to know how they’re feeling about working with us for what’s going well or what could be improved.
When should I leave feedback?
Tom: In most cases we’ll prompt you at specific milestones throughout your relationship with us to make sure we’re improving and adding value at each step of the way. This includes:
Checking in just after you buy something from us
Finding out how your first two weeks with us (your onboarding) has gone
Asking for ways we can improve every three months thereafter
We’ll also collect live feedback on a regular basis through weekly or monthly calls.
Dia: If you’re comfortable, you can leave feedback directly with the person you’re working with. The Client Advocacy Team is also always available and you can either email us or set up a meeting with us.
How to leave productive feedback:
Decide whether you want to give feedback directly to your coach, consultant, project manager or account executive, or to our Client Advocacy Team.
We’ll want to know who they are, what business you are a part of, how you engage with us, the context of the situation, company, who their main point of contact is at IMPACT.
You can leave feedback in writing in an email or Basecamp to your point of contact, email the feedback email, or book a meeting here. You can also request a call from our Client Advocacy Team if you’d rather not put something in writing.
Can I leave anonymous feedback?
Tom: We don’t have a means of anonymous feedback mainly because we want to create a space safe enough that people feel open to leaving feedback without fear of retribution or judgement. If the feedback is anonymous, it becomes hard to address the problem at its root cause.
Dia: We’re all professionals and lifelong learners who are dedicated to our craft. We’ve never had a case where feedback given from a client soured a relationship. Also, our Client Advocacy Team is very discrete and only shares pertinent facts with the people who need to hear it to make adjustments.
4 stories of how feedback has made IMPACT the company it is today
There are plenty of stories where our team got a piece of feedback that was a game changer for us, or feedback that we took action on that turned an entire engagement around.
Though I’ve been a content trainer for dozens of clients at IMPACT, the reality is that sometimes there are still blindspots that I don’t readily see in those relationships.
In my own experience, I personally had a client for whom our calls regularly went over the scheduled time, but I never thought much of it, thinking the client was getting a lot of value and appreciated the extra time we spent talking through something.
It wasn’t until getting feedback from their team that I realized that this was actually the one part of our relationship that they were not happy with: They wanted more adherence to our scheduled time.
After all, they have other things going on in their day, and just because I had time to stay on the call to hammer something out didn't mean they didn’t have other meetings or priorities to work on outside of our call.
Now, looking back, it’s a lot more obvious, but I may have never realized that if they didn’t speak up.
Since getting that feedback, I’ve been able to keep our calls more structured, organized, and within the designated timeframe so that everyone is happy.
The thing about blindspots is you can’t see them yourself! I’m grateful that my client brought up to the Client Advocacy Team how I can make their relationship with IMPACT an even better one.
2. Needing more resources to continue to progress
Another client of mine mentioned how stressful it was to try to bring They Ask, You Answer to their organization as a book club. They wanted to make sure they were doing it right and asked for resources to help.
Tom: With one company we worked with, the marketing director mentioned that they would love to have some sort of visual representation of where they are vs what they need to do with They Ask, You Answer, and where they currently are in order to be a success story.
The feedback went through the organization all the way up to Bob Ruffolo, IMPACT’s Founder and CEO, who worked with our case study clients to map out the steps they needed to take to ultimately become the success stories that they are. That became the They Ask, You Answer Journey.
I brought it back to that client to say, “This was inspired by you,” which is something we use with our clients to this day.
3. Not happy with a purchase
Dia: One of our clients was really unhappy with the product they purchased. We hopped on a call to gather detailed feedback on their experience and how the deliverable fell short of their expectations.
Powered with that information, the team identified how we could find a solution that would be a better fit for that client’s needs. They then went above and beyond to make sure the client had the support they needed.
The lesson we learned: better educate clients on what they’re purchasing to meet their needs and avoid misalignment of expectations. Getting this feedback helped us improve our sales conversations and product to work better for our clients.
4. Frustrations of transitioning accounts
Dia: We’ve also gotten feedback about the pain points of transitioning people on accounts, and though that’s part of the agency world that can’t entirely be prevented, there are things we could do to make the experience less frustrating.
From hearing that feedback, we were able to dig deeper into those pain points to make sure there are smooth handoffs now whenever one of our clients has a new point of contact they’re working with.
The key to evolving is to keep growing
As you can see, we’re pretty serious about really knowing how we’re doing at IMPACT.
We’re not looking for canned answers that everything is great, like the restaurant manager that comes to your table (like back in pre-COVID times…) to see how things are going but doesn’t really intend to do anything to fix it and make things right.
If you have feedback about your experience with IMPACT, whether it’s good, bad, or neutral, we’d love to hear it so we can continue to adapt to best serve you.
We wouldn’t be where we are now without you challenging us to consistently be better, and we appreciate you for it.
There’s never been a better version or iteration of IMPACT in the past, and we hope that with the help of our clients we can be even better in the future than we are today.
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