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Summary:

A little while ago I posted an article about what to do when a contract closes. One piece of advice I gave was to gather feedback, using a form if appropriate. The key to whether or not people will actually use that form depends on your working relationship, on how and when you ask, and, perhaps most importantly, on how well your form is designed. That means making a form that’s not only user friendly, but also meaningful and well-written.

feedbackA little while ago I posted an article about what to do when a contract closes. One piece of advice I gave was to gather feedback, using a form if appropriate. The key to whether or not people will actually use that form depends on your working relationship, on how and when you ask, and, perhaps most importantly, on how well your form is designed. That means making a form that’s not only user friendly, but also meaningful and well-written.

Format

Choosing the right format and delivery method for your feedback form will have a profound effect on how often you actually get it back filled out.

Personally, I like to use an Adobe PDF form because it’s easy for the client to use: simple, portable, compatible across platforms and distributable both online or off. If you don’t have a copy of Acrobat, you can use OpenOffice Writer to create PDF forms instead. An HTML form is a good alternative, though if you don’t have any HTML experience it might be more difficult to put one together. As a final option, be ready and willing to call and conduct your survey on the phone directly with a stakeholder, since this may be the only way to ensure you get some kind of feedback.

Question Composition

As for the questions you ask, you may first want to decide how many you’re going to use. For the sake of ease of use I generally ask between 10 and 20 questions, depending on the length and type of engagement. You don’t want to use too many, since you risk exasperating your client, but if you use too few, your results won’t be very meaningful.

The nature and wording of each question will also determine how meaningful the answers are. The most important thing to consider when composing your questions is to consider how you might act based on the answers you receive. If, for example, you ask, “Was the project I delivered what you anticipated receiving upon completion?” with the client answering on a scale of one to five, the answers will be meaningless without additional questions. Regardless of whether you score high or low, you won’t know how to change your practice based upon those results.

It’s better to ask more specific questions like, “How satisfied were you with any pre-project materials received?” since this points to a specific area that you can act to improve. As a rule of thumb, ask yourself what you would do following a positive or negative response to each question you come up with. If you can’t come up with anything, then it’s probably not a good question.

Breaking your questions up into categories (with subheadings) is also a good idea, as it will focus your client and, again, help make your results more meaningful. You also might want to ask for a general measure of satisfaction for the project as a whole, just to see if your client’s micro and macro observations are consistent.

Finally, always leave space for extra comments, context for answers given, etc. Whether or not it gets used, respondents will appreciate the opportunity to speak outside of your prescribed boundaries.

Scale

Form design is one area where you don’t want to get too far off the beaten track, because it’s a genre that people are already very much acquainted with. You can use that familiarity to your advantage. Using the typical answer scale of scores from one to five, for instance, will give your respondents instant, easy access, because it’s something they’ve seen in many different forms before.

Of course, that still leaves choices about how to use that scale. Personally, I use the one to five scale differently depending on what kind of feedback I’m looking for. If I want something that I will be using as a reference for future engagements, for instance, I might orient the numbers from highest to lowest, which seems to encourage people to choose higher numbers overall. If I want more criticism, because I’m using the survey results primarily for internal, professional development purposes, I’ll use the reverse tactic and order the numbers from lowest to highest.

Designing a good feedback form is not easy, and you’ll no doubt encounter many competing opinions on how best to do it. A good tip, though, is to always offer some kind of incentive to fill out the form, whether it be a discount on the client’s invoice, some kind of free service like a client-sector specific research report, or a charitable donation. Believe me, feedback is well worth the investment.

How do you gather client feedback?

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By Darrell Etherington

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  1. Don’t forget that the #1 problem with feedback forms is that they’re often too long or too complicated for clients, these people are too busy to fill out long questionnaires.

    The #2 problem IMHO? Fixing the questions to get the answers we want.

  2. What to read on the GigaOM network Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    [...] Intel, Dell among the IT firms buying considerable “green power” (Earth2Tech) How to make a client feedback form (WebWorkerDaily) Use the I Love BlackBerry app to find out if you’re a true BlackBerry addict [...]

  3. All the above is great advice. Analysis, over time, is also important. Our site Coworkers.com is focused on helping professionals gather and share feedback in order to improve their work performance. Therefore I felt it was appropriate to comment here.

    The site provides a number of predesigned questionnaire templates, but allow users to customize these or create their own from scratch. You can use anything from ratings sliders to free text areas for comments etc. We certainly agree that it’s critical for workers to ask clients and colleagues how they feel about their work.

  4. Testimonials: A Freelance Writer’s Evidence, Addendum » The Life and Times of a Freelance Writer Thursday, April 30, 2009

    [...] good freelance writers need to ask for testimonials, I came across a post on WebWorkerDaily about constructing a client feedback form. This is another route to take in asking for feedback, especially if you are technical or do not [...]

  5. Mineful: A Quick Way to Make Those Feedback Forms Friday, May 1, 2009

    [...] It’s coincidental because I’d only just finished writing an article about how to create a feedback form for freelance workers to use to evaluate the success of a project. In that article, I suggested [...]

  6. When giving the customer the choice of selecting one answer out a pool of several, these must be in even numbers, because if, say you have 5 options, people tend to go neutral just because is a natural human tendency of avoiding conflict (which IMHO is not fair for either party). E.g. How would you rate our services? Very poor / Poor / Good / Excellent.
    See here the feedback-er is forced to lean to one side of the equation, giving the service provider a much clearer picture of how their work is perceived by their customers.

  7. Adrian Plunkett Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    I want to make a comment for for my site, how do i do that

  8. Great post. We provide feedback form tools (www.fast-feedback.com) but having tools is important but not the “end all be all” of feedback analysis. Developing a well thought out set of questions will make or break it.

  9. thnx. very nice. web site.

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