The Best (And Hardest) Question To Ask Past Clients
The Toughest Question You Can Ask Past Clients is Often the Best
Recently , I shared with you the value of doing client interviews and how they can help you understand why clients choose you, what value you bring them, and what they say when they recommend you to others.
Today, I'd like to share with you the most powerful but intimidating question you should include in any post-project client interview... "What can we do better in the future?"
For years, I was afraid to ask this question.
Inherently, this is a question that makes you and your business really vulnerable - because feedback isn't always positive. I'm the kind of person where things that people say can get stuck in my head and play back over and over and over. So the last thing I ever wanted to do was ask, "What can I do better?"
What changed my mind?
Thinking about it from the other perspective. I thought back to my wedding. One of my wedding vendors never followed up with me for feedback on my experience. I remember being really frustrated because there were a few things I wanted to share with that person, but I didn't because they didn't ask. There were things that may have been cleared up and things this person could have learned from our experience to improve their business for future clients. So I often think of it as a loss for both of us. It's also the major reason I didn't recommend that particular vendor passionately to others.
What happened when I finally faced my fears and asked?
Incredible insight, great ideas, and improvements to my business I would never have come up with on my own. Opening myself up to my clients' feedback and giving them a forum in these client interviews has been eye-opening for me.
Here are just a few of the things I've learned from my clients by asking "What can I do better in the future?":
- Client Process Hiccups: Unbeknownst to me, my project management software was inundating clients with tons of emails. I only used the software to share a timeline with clients and was mortified to hear that I was basically spamming all my clients' inboxes unknowingly. I found this out from two different clients on the same day via this interview - eek! Asking the question gave me a chance to know about and fix the issue (switch system), as well as apologize to the clients affected.
- Great Client Experience Ideas: One client remarked that while he loved the entire project, it was all digital and he suggested it would be cool to include a physical element - like printed business cards - so he had something physically tangible, too. This insight inspired one of the hallmarks of our process - a surprise, personalized gift to each of our clients using their branding! Everything from tote bags, to coffee mugs, to embroidered caps - it's been a fun and delightful way to bring someone's brand to life and thank them for their partnership. It's also a great idea that totally came from my client's perspective!
- Peace of mind: While we can't hit a home run on every single thing we do, I always try to give our clients the best experience and results I possibly can. Asking "What can we do better?" allows me to make sure we did our best and that I didn't miss something or inadvertently upset a client by accident. Since I'm giving them the opportunity to share any issues or questions, I can have the peace of mind of knowing there wasn't something lurking or unknown I could have improved or rectified as needed.
- Encouragement and Validation: Encouragement? From asking for constructive criticism? Absolutely. That's been the most surprising thing. While clients definitely have insights about process issues, ideas for the future and more, they also tend to say things like "actually - I can't think of anything!" and proceed to highlight things that they really loved about the project, my work, and the process. They confirm to me that our process is working and their experience was awesome - which is always my goal and so empowering and encouraging to hear.
Now, it's your turn to ask that impossible question of "What can I do better?"
What might you learn if you asked, "What can I do better in the future?" It's tough to ask for constructive feedback, but there is so much to gain.
Take it from me - someone who used to fear this with great anxiety - there's so much impact this question can have you on you, your clients, and the ultimate success of your business. Don't hesitate to check-in - there's so much value in it.
I dare you to conduct one client interview this week and include this question. If you do it, let me know how it goes! Can't wait to find out what you learn.