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feedback to the future

Updated on November 8, 2012

The Shortest, Surest Path to Business Excellence

I often say criticism is the surest, shortest path to excellence. I always ask clients for feedback when delivering work, but I only realised on my weekend away that I seldom seek it afterwards via follow up. I now see that I'm doing my clients a disservice. I may even be thwarting income and growth. Here's why.

As a childless couple, our pets are very important to us.

So we spent our weekend in ‘doggie friendly’ accommodation.

The cottage was immaculate and thoroughly geared to make us all comfortable. Unfortunately, on the last night, one dog found a gap in the garden fence and headed for the hills. Recapture was arduous and the dog’s subsequent confinement inside defeated the garden’s purpose.

The cottage had no feedback form, so I resolved to ring the owner to prevent future guest distress. But when I got home, work backlog drove this thought from my mind. I’ll ring today (barring acts of God). Had there been a feedback form, or had the owner called to see if we’d enjoyed our stay, the fence would already be fixed.

Last month I gained a valuable new client via this blog. Her first project was a brochure, done just in time for an industry expo. Though I wished her well then, I only asked this morning if the brochure did what she’d expected. I’m yet to hear. If it was a dud, she’s had four weeks to complain to others. If it was a success, I could’ve earned another testimonial and we could be working on a second, larger project.

Feedback is scary: it could be bad. We may have to refund money or fix something. But by avoiding the bad, we miss the good. And let the bad get worse.

Consider my plumber. The first $700 of work he did was so good, I commissioned another $1300. Instead of doing it himself, however, he sent his barely formed underling. Lacking the tools and training to bend metal, this calloused youth bludgeoned it instead. His handiwork has since admitted rain, leaves and a possum that disturbs us every night.

If my plumber rang for feedback, I’d surely vent and demand recompense. However, if he apologised, fixed the problem and promised to do subsequent work himself, I’d happily accept. This is because (A) I have lots of plumbing work left and (B) I’ve since discovered that with tradespeople, the devil you know is better. And if he did the same great work as initially, I’d pay cash on the spot and praise him here.

I also often say fortune favours the brave. So I’m bravely going to follow up clients to see if my ‘fighting words’ are doing just that. I sense that in going back, I may ensure my future.

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