An Opportunity for Improvement
A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of customer feedback. I would like to continue on that thread. Many people wonder if anyone really reads the feedback that they submit. I can assure you that we do, and that we take it very seriously.
Our survey response scale is as follows … 1: below expectations, 2: met expectations, 3: exceeds expectations. If we do not receive at least a score of a 2 we as a supplier are dissatisfied. It is our goal (and in our mission as stated right on our business cards) “to provide consistently superior project services to our customers.” But on the rare occasion that we do have a customer gives us a 1, we dig in to find out why, and what we can do to correct the situation.
Any time that we receive feedback that we did not meet our customer’s expectations we generate a customer complaint and initiate a process to understand and correct the situation. Sometimes the comment is self-explanatory and we understand why the client is not totally satisfied, and we implement a corrective action to address the issue. When dealing with more complex issues, if the feedback provider agreed that we can contact them, we may do so to gather more information about why they were dissatisfied or what went wrong. We then go back to our project team and look at what happened on our end and dig for a root cause of the problem. The investigation will look at all aspects of the project and how it was executed to determine what went wrong, or why we were not able to meet our customer’s expectations.
Once the investigation is complete it is determined what corrective action is required. We then work to correct the issue, not just the issue for that customer, but if a systemic issue is found we will correct our process so that we do not have an issue with any other customers as well. After the corrective action has been completed it must be verified for effectiveness. Did we solve the problem? Once the corrective action is complete and verified, we may choose to use the information in our lessons learned process.
Here we share our findings with others on our staff to ensure that they avoid similar issues. We also often circle back to the client and present our “lessons learned” to them. We want to develop long lasting relationships with our clients. We are not a “One and Done” type of company, so we value the feedback loop and actively work on it.
We had a recent example with a large client in the medical device industry. They were a new client at the time, and so we went through some growing pains learning how to work with them. It went back to requirements definition, among other issues. We had to spend a lot more time onsite than we planned on, and the budget was locked in, so we ate these costs to maintain the relationship with the client. We did a “project lessons learned” analysis with the client after the project was complete, and out of it came many opportunities for improvement, as well as positive feedback from the client on the things we did well. Because we took a serious approach to listening to our customer’s concerns, and working with them to change, we succeeded in maintaining the relationship and had some tremendous project successes.
They are still a client with us today.