Business Strategies for Surveyors / Phipps: Value Pricing
Value Pricing

Step 8: After Action Review

Ask questions to determine the level of satisfaction the client has for your services.

September 1, 2013
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The project is complete. Your (hopefully satisfied) client has moved on to other things. It’s time to turn your attention to the next project safe in the knowledge that all is right with the world. But is it? Is the client truly satisfied? There is only one way to know for certain: You have to ask.

There is a real temptation to move on to the next client. After all, we aren’t getting paid to look back at our last project. Resist the urge to skip this step; it might be the ultimate key to success or failure.

The truth is, we alone do not get to define success. We promised to put our client in charge (Step 1). If the client isn’t happy with our work, then the project wasn’t a success.[i]

The knowledge we seek – and the questions that will help us get it – fall into two categories. Questions need to be asked inside the company. Be sure to ask all levels of employees. Everyone from the field crew, to the office team to the project manager (and higher) need to be involved. External questions are those we ask our clients and other parties associated with the project.[ii]happy value pricing man

 

Internal questions

Internal questions include queries about the client, the project and the company. Here is a sample of some important questions you might wish to ask in each category. Keep in mind the list is not exhaustive and should be tailored such that the answers will provide the information necessary for larger management and policy decisions.

 

The client:

  • Which of the four classes does this client fit?[iii]
  • Do we want to work with this person on future projects?
  • Was this client easy or difficult?
  • Is this person likely to need future work we can provide?
  • Did the client fulfill its side of our agreement in full and on time?
  • Will this person recommend our company to people they know?

 

The project:

  • What goal(s) were supposed to be accomplished?
  • Where those goal(s) achieved?
  • Were the goals reasonable? If no, did we try to warn the client about unreasonable expectations?
  • What motivated the client to acquire the work? Was this a need or a want?
  • Did we propose or allow the client to choose services that we should have known would not accomplish the client’s goals?
  • Was the work completed within the expected time frame?
  • Was the project modified significantly after the fixed-price agreement?
  • If the project was modified, what was the cause?

 

The company

  • Did we make a profit or a loss? By how much?
  • Did we create value for the client? How much?
  • Did we price the project correctly?
  • Did we appropriately communicate the value created to the client?
  • Did we use the appropriate level of technology?
  • If we have similar projects in the future, what will we do differently?
  • Were company personnel properly trained, equipped and motivated?
  • Did the project require change orders? If so, who negotiated the new terms?
  • Who priced the modified work?
  • Who signed?
  • Does the change order form need revision(s)?
  • What could we have done to increase value for the client?
  • What could we have done to increase our productivity?

 

There are other questions you can develop for each category. These will help you to get started.

 

External questions

To get the full picture, we cannot focus solely within the company. We must also look to the client and other parties associated with the project. Some of the things we need to ask include:

 

The client

  • Did we complete the project as promised, when promised?
  • Was the price for this work higher, lower or about what was expected?
  • Was the quality of the work higher, lower or about what was expected?
  • With which company employee was your experience most positive?
  • With which company employee was your experience least positive?
  • Will you approve the company for using your feedback in promotional materials?
  • How did you learn about the company?
  • Would you recommend our services to others?
  • Do you have future projects with which we can help?

 

Third parties

These third parties can fall into a wide range of ancillary groups. We must be aware of situations where their goals and our goals are in conflict. The questions will vary widely, but here are some examples:

  • Bankers

1.    Did you receive copies of everything you needed?

2.    Were all deadlines met?

3.    Were all requirements fulfilled by our work?[iv]

4.    What could we have done to make your job easier?

5.    What could the client have done to make your job easier?

6.     Will you recommend our company to clients with similar needs?

  • Lawyers

1.    Did you receive copies of everything you needed?

2.    Were all deadlines met?

3.    Were all requirements[v]  fulfilled by our work?

4.    What could we have done to make things better for our client?

5.    What could we have done to make your job easier?

6.    Were there any surprises on our plat reports?

7.    In the future, when we find items of potential interest to whom at your office should we communicate?

  • Real Estate Agents

1.    Did you receive copies of everything you needed?

2.    Were all deadlines met?

3.    Were all requirements[vi]  fulfilled by our work?

4.    What could we have done to make things better for our client?

5.    What could we have done to make your job easier?

  • Contractors

1.    Did you receive copies of everything you needed?

2.    Were all deadlines met?

3.    Were all requirements[vii]  fulfilled by our work?

4.    What could we have done to make things better for our client?

5.    Is our standard color scheme acceptable?

6.    Who is the best survey firm you have worked with?

7.    Do you recommend our services to others who need surveying?  If no, why not?

1.    Were our client’s interactions copacetic?

2.    Were our company interactions copacetic?

3.    What changes will need to be made for similar projects in the future[ix]?

4.    Are rules changes being proposed that will impact our work on future projects?

5.    Is there a process whereby we can provide our view on proposed rules changes?

 

Most companies find that 80 percent of their profits come from 20 percent of their clients. When viewed in this light, it makes sense to figure out who those clients are and learn as much from them as possible. How do we do that?

We could send an exhaustive questionnaire or we could offer discounts or other incentives to tell us how we are doing. My experience tells me those techniques can work, but are much less effective than a more direct approach.

A quarterly dinner at a nice restaurant where you sit and talk informally can establish the right tone.[x]Come to dinner” has a much nicer ring than “We need a meeting”. There is no need for detailed forms being pushed on the client. Even the much less intrusive web based polls demand an investment of your clients’ time with little or no reward. The good manager can accomplish the same goals over dinner.

This approach also sends the message that we have been cultivating from the start: The company cares about you. We hope we have proved that during the project. This is a follow-up to say, “Thank you for putting your trust in us.”



[i] Notice that I am not saying the client has to be happy with the results. Sometimes the facts are not what the client wants. We are not in business to give them what they want; we are in the business of giving them what the circumstances will allow.

[ii] Examples of other parties are the banker, lawyer, contractor and regulatory agency.

[iii] See the June 2012 POB article, “The Client Matrix.”

[iv] A requirement is something that is well-known by all parties and negotiated as a part of the fixed-price agreement. Last-minute certification demands and additional work are a sign of incompetence on the part of the third party or an attempt to get the professional land surveyor to accept additional liability that is best rejected.

[v] A requirement is something that is well known by all parties and negotiated as a part of the Fixed Price Agreement. Last minute certification demands and additional work are a sign of incompetence on the part of the 3rd party or an attempt to get the PLS to accept additional liability that is best rejected.

[vi] A requirement is something that is well known by all parties and negotiated as a part of the Fixed Price. Agreement. Last minute certification demands and additional work are a sign of incompetence on the part of the 3rd party or an attempt to get the PLS to accept additional liability that is best rejected.

[vii] A requirement is something that is well known by all parties and negotiated as a part of the Fixed Price Agreement. Last minute certification demands and additional work are a sign of incompetence on the part of the 3rd party or an attempt to get the PLS to accept additional liability that is best rejected.

[viii] The best idea may be to not ask about specific projects, but the work in general. Specific project discussions could lead to a change-of-heart and the desire to “un-approve” previously approved work. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it happen.

[ix] Be sure and get a citation for the statute, regulation or policy that is changing and will require the modification of future projects. Never take the spoken word alone. Verbal exchanges are easily forgotten. Also remember that we are tasked with protecting the public.

[x] More or less often depending on the volume or work.

 

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