Beyond Satisfaction, Learn What Your Clients Value

By Jennifer Li Shen

Earlier in 2014, we sent out our client survey, a bi-annual event for the clients we serviced during that time frame to give anonymous feedback and (hopefully) lavish us with praise. In years past, 100% of respondents have marked they “would recommend Blue Garnet’s consulting services to others.” So how did we stack up this year?

But first, why do a client satisfaction survey? Isn’t that a lot of work?

The easy answer…we are a learning organization! This is fundamental to our values at Blue Garnet, literally (see Inquiry for Results) and a way to know if we are having our desired impact.  We care what our clients think and their feedback guides us to better serve them. The better we serve them, the more we move the needle for our firm. We can only assume we are having an impact based on the smiles on our clients’ faces and even their testimonials, but until we support (or refute) this with data, we don’t actually know. We’ll be the first to admit this is scary! Many organizations put this off for fear of what they might find, but for us, that’s the exciting part, and the part that makes us more effective as an organization.

Now, the not so easy answer… it’s one thing to ask your clients “Were you satisfied?” and have them check a box either yes or no. But the real gold is extracted by understanding what your clients value about you specifically. So imagine asking a spouse or loved one “Do you love me?” They would probably say yes. But asking “What do you love about me?” spurs an entirely different conversation, and informs what they truly value about you. See the difference? Now you know what is important to them, and are able to reinforce those things in your actions.

Lastly, this knowledge also allows us to prioritize how to progress. As a firm with limited resources (sound familiar?), we must be judicious with which opportunities to pursue, so spending extra time and resources on efforts our clients don’t value is frustrating for both parties. Take a page from Bill Watterson’s classic Calvin and Hobbes


So what did we learn?

Well, I suppose there is what we expected, and what we didn’t expect:

What we expected (and hoped for):

  • 100% of clients that responded said we helped them build shared leadership. That was a resounding affirmation of what we do, because what we are doing is not just checking a box for the organization to have a strategic plan, but the planning process is about organizational change and building the cohesiveness of the leadership team.
  • 100% of respondents agreed we demonstrated analytical rigor, and over 90% said we effectively facilitated project management and provided valuable insight.
  • Clients highly value our reputation and expertise, service approach and philosophy, and having worked with us previously.

What we didn’t expect:

  • It was really exciting to hear that the vast majority of our clients (close to 90%!) feel we are thoughts leaders on impact. So glad our clients appreciate how we geek out on this stuff!
  • 40% of respondents said they agree that “As a result of having worked with Blue Garnet, over time our organization has raised more funds!!” While we would of course prefer a larger number, we celebrated that so many clients were able to directly attribute increased funds to our work. This is a positive step in being able to determine an ROI for strong strategic planning.
  • 76% of respondents were able to improve or greatly improve organizational clarity as a result of the project with us.  No one indicated that they “did not improve.” While these are good results, we are even more keen on addressing the 24% that indicated they only “somewhat improved” in organizational clarity.
  • Close to 90% of respondents agreed that they were able to more effectively deploy they resources. Now, that’s strategic thinking!

What are we going to do about it?

I, for one, am energized by this information. There are some areas that I would like to see improved, so the first thing we are doing is administering the survey sooner to allow the client to give more immediate feedback, and thus allow for continuous learning. In addition to our interim pulse checks during the engagement, we intend to send out a survey immediately after finishing the project to get feedback regarding the client’s experience working with us (and how we met their expectations), and then send out a shorter survey two years later to gauge how the work has affected their impact as an organization.

As we continue to process the information, we are scouring the data to understand what our clients value, especially things that we might be undervaluing but our clients really appreciate. Again, this leads to understanding our clients, to better understand how to serve them better, and further our own desired impact. So we encourage you to indulge in data, especially when it comes to client surveys…you just might find out what your clients actually value!

What are you doing to understand who you are serving and how you can improve in order to be more effective as an organization? Comment below to let us know!

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