Asking clients for feedback on services and products might seem like an easy task, but many business owners struggle with it. Some forget to build it into their business model, while others neglect the process entirely because they don’t like to ask for favors. Or they have no idea what to do with the feedback they receive. What if it’s negative or hurtful? What if the suggestions for changes or process improvements aren’t feasible? With all this in mind, is it worth the time and trouble to ask for feedback?
In fact, I would say it’s essential. Without feedback, you never get an outside perspective on your work, and you assume everything is going well because you never hear otherwise. In reality, though, you have no idea how things are going. Are your clients happy? Are they unhappy, and too shy or polite to speak up and say something?
I value what my clients have to say, which is why I always send a feedback form when our sessions are complete. I ask what they gained from our work together, how satisfied they were with our time together, if there are any aspects of my technique or style that didn’t work for them, and more. I also provide a space for clients to provide a testimonial, which is something they can opt into (or out of) on our initial contract. This way, clients are expecting to be asked for feedback, and they can decide whether they’re willing to share an excerpt of their thoughts publicly, or if they prefer their feedback to be used internally only.
In my three years as a coach, I’ve only had one client opt out of providing a testimonial. After our sessions were over, he changed his mind and was more than happy to provide one. Still, I like to give clients the option, knowing that some people are just more private than others. And it’s a testament to the fact that feedback is multipurpose; yes, it’s great for marketing and publicity, but it’s also crucial for business development.
If you’re still not convinced, here are three more reasons I always ask for feedback from clients.
1. It’s an opportunity to reflect on compliments and constructive criticism alike.
If professionals shy away from feedback, it’s usually because they fear hearing negative comments. But many people forget that feedback is also an opportunity for clients to tell you what you’re doing well. Clients may want to gush about your services or products, but without a vehicle for them to do so, you end up missing out on feedback that can make you feel good and remind you of why you started your business to begin with. And, no surprise, it can be really gratifying to reflect on thoughtful feedback from clients, especially when it’s clear that you’re delivering above and beyond what they expected.
Of course, there’s the other side of the coin: negative feedback. Criticism can be challenging to hear, but imagine what it would feel like if you didn’t have the positive feedback to balance it out. That’s another reason that routinely asking for feedback is essential, rather than just relying on people to email you when they have something to say. Especially in customer-oriented fields, the vast majority of people will only email when there’s a problem. When you have an archive of feedback, though, you can consider constructive criticism in context. Is the feedback something that multiple clients have conveyed? Or is it something unique to this situation with this person? If it’s a comment that you’ve never heard before, that doesn’t mean you should disregard it. But you can think about it within a broader context, remembering that you aren’t going to be the right fit for everyone.
2. I want my clients and collaborators to be happy and feel good about our work together.
I’m easily adaptable. If someone has a suggestion for how our working relationship or process could be improved, I am all ears. This goes not only for clients but other independent professionals with whom I collaborate. I like the people I work with to feel heard and valued, and if they have an idea about how to make something work more seamlessly, I want to do everything I can to incorporate their suggestions.
Part of why I chose the entrepreneur lifestyle is so I could develop fulfilling professional relationships with people who love what they do. Allowing those relationships to thrive through open communication is hugely important to me.
3. I value the insight that comes from an outside perspective.
As independent professionals, it can sometimes feel like we’re working in a vacuum, and it’s rare we get the chance to hear what someone else thinks of our offerings. But that insight is key. Asking for feedback can help you see things differently and can reveal areas for improvement or development. And when you gather your client’s impressions, it can also illuminate concepts that may seem run-of-the-mill to them, but that you have never conceptualized that way. (For example, a client recently told me that I’m a natural at seeing the grey area in situations, which I’d never thought of before.) Getting that outside perspective can lead you to provide a better service or product, but it can also raise your awareness of how you interact with clients and what exactly you bring to the table.
That’s not to say you’ll always be able to incorporate or integrate feedback right away, even if you do see the value of the suggestion. Some changes take longer to implement while others are quick and easy. In some cases, you might even receive feedback that’s well-intentioned, but not relevant to your business. When this happens, I always thank the person for their input and for taking the time to share with me. I remind myself I don’t need to get defensive or explain myself, but I also don’t necessarily need to make a change just to make one person happy. Above all, it’s important to listen. After that, it’s all up to you.