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Add Client Check-Ins to AEC Project Debriefs

We all agree that project debriefs are helpful if you can get clear takeaways about areas to improve in your management processes, cost estimates or client communications. But everything we’ve read about project debriefs is essentially internal and focused on your team.

What about the client’s perspective?

AEC firms tell us that they get the majority of their new work through repeat clients or referrals from clients. So it begs the question, why aren’t project managers checking in with clients immediately post-project, six months after a project and so on?

Some experienced project managers and firms with a sales team are great at this, but it should be a common practice across your PM team if you are building a culture that delivers consistently stellar client experiences. PMs who check in with clients strengthen the relationship, and they will also hear about future work on the horizon sooner.

It’s a team effort. PMs and business developers have different, but complementary interests in the relationship. Business developers are interested in keeping clients happy and attracting new work. PMs are interested in improving processes, efficiency and project outcomes. It all translates to new work and more enjoyable projects for everyone.

Winning AEC Business While Retaining Great PMs

Here are some thoughts to integrate client check-ins with your post-project debriefing. They are a key part of competitive research and winning future business.

  1. Encourage your PMs to invite or join clients for lunch. Post-project, you should have fun, celebratory lunches or post-project conversations. Why? It will strengthen the client relationship by letting the PM show their human and personal side. People who have a nice time together are more likely to want to work together in the future.
  2. Prep your PMs for great post-project questions. As part of your debrief process, create some questions that the PM can use to collect important feedback and also ask for referrals. You already know if the project came in on time and on budget, so why ask clients that?

Ask them about what they appreciated most during the project and what might have displeased them. Ask if you’re on the same page about the value you delivered or if they have other ideas. And finally, ask how likely they are to refer you to other clients, and when there might be new work coming your way.

READ: Read this post for additional interviewing techniques

  1. Train your PMs to share client feedback with marketing and business development. If your marketing team doesn’t know about how your firm saved a client thousands of dollars through a new choice of materials or an alternative design approach, they can’t share a success story to attract new business.

Plus, PMs can feel proud talking about their “wins” on a short video or sharing a client compliment in a case study. Even if you have an NDA, smart marketing people know how to discreetly share that competitive feedback and communicate your firm’s value to clients and prospects. Client feedback and stories are the most memorable ways to do that. And who is closer to the project’s value and deliverables than the PM?

Why is client feedback so important for AEC repeat business? You can’t assume that clients will choose your firm every time. These industries are too competitive.

Instead, proactively ask for the feedback through your debriefing process. Discuss the project internally, and then take that information on the road to discuss with your clients. They will appreciate that you spent time talking about their project, and you will appreciate having time with them that isn’t solely focused on a proposal, a problem or a deadline.

We highly recommend a post-project celebration, too. Cheers!

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Client Satisfaction Blog

Borrow these 3 client experience hacks from DIY tax platforms

Client Satisfaction Blog

Right now, DIY tax platforms are designed for individuals with simple returns, and they don’t necessarily compete with CPA firms. However, their proactive communications throughout tax season are quite elegant and worth a closer look.

Leveraging their technology, these platforms communicate with customers and potential customers prior to tax season, during the tax preparation process and after. Since there is no personal relationship with a CPA, they enhance the client experience with regular, strategic email check-ins and feedback requests.

You may be very proactive throughout the year with your clients in an advisory capacity. When deadlines push and laws change rapidly, though, your firm could leverage marketing technology to stay in touch and productive.

Corporate clients are still run by individuals who are busy and don’t have time to check on the status of tax filings and payments or audits. Even so, they want to know that their CPA is on the job despite regulatory delays or deadline extensions. Take a cue from DIY tax services in these three ways to enhance your clients’ experience. They are simple and will be appreciated.

Hack #1 – Reminders to Connect

Once people have an account with a DIY service, the platform begins a series of emails with friendly reminders to get in touch. It’s their version of a tax planner, but they send it more than once to remind busy customers to get started.

Whether you are communicating with CFOs, administrators or owners, a series of pre-planning or reminder emails strengthens the client experience because it does not require the client to search through paperwork OR emails to find your firm’s instructions or request. When that reminder email shows up, your clients will appreciate the simplicity of following through.

These emails can be personalized and scheduled through your integrated CRM and marketing tools. In this DIY tax platform example, the email is reminding the client of a scheduled appointment. Busy people appreciate reminders.

Appointment Reminder Example

Hack #2 – Automated Updates

With unprecedented tax changes over the past few years, CPAs have experienced an endless tax season. So have your clients.

Amidst these changing tax laws, regulations and filing deadlines, the DIY platforms do a smart thing. They send regular updates to let customers know about the status of their returns.

Automated Email Updates

In your automated email updates, you can give a status update, but also proactively let the client know what it means and what’s next for them.

These updates calm client concerns or frustrations. You will potentially avoid multiple calls or emails from clients, which disrupts your team’s productivity. Use your technology to set up these emails in advance. They can be as simple as:

“Good news! Your tax preparation is underway. I will let you know when I have more details on your filing date. Thank you for choosing us.”

OR

“Thanks for your patience. We are waiting on information from the IRS regarding some aspects of your return, and we will update you on filing status by March 17…”

READ: Keys to Fostering Brand Loyalty for Your Firm

Hack #3 – Measure Client Satisfaction

DIY tax platforms always offer a survey or ask customers to review their service to help them improve it. The surveys are less than three minutes, but they target certain aspects of the tax filing process. They help the company identify service, technology or outcomes that people highly value or highly dislike.

Quality Customer Support

Through your CPA firm marketing, you can offer a series of multiple choice and open-ended questions in a short survey following your key tax or audit engagements. They can be automated like the DIY tax platforms to feed your firm information about the client experience.

Surveys should be analyzed for action steps that support future communications. They can also help you identify new services to offer.

Using these three client experience hacks from DIY tax platforms can optimize the great advisory relationships you have built with loyal clients. They will also help new clients feel like they made the right choice with your firm. If you need assistance with client experience communications or setting up your automated digital marketing surveys, contact us at Ingenuity.

View Ingenuity’s research and survey services.