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How and When Your Consulting Firm Should Solicit Feedback

Your consulting firm’s clients are happy. You know this for three reasons: they tell you, they engage your firm for follow-on work and they refer you to other prospects. (If they send you s’mores, they’re really happy!)

Could your clients be even happier, contract even more consulting projects from you and refer you more often? Probably.

You’ll know for sure and, more importantly, you’ll know how to drive client delight through the roof when you solicit feedback in the right way at the right time.

Let’s take a quick poll. [Please participate in the poll below.]

Typically, when do you solicit feedback from a client on their happiness with your project?

The most effective feedback protocol combines ongoing, informal feedback with (at least) two instances of formal feedback.

  • On a regular cadence, ask for feedback as part of an informal conversation with your project sponsor or the decision-maker. Monthly tends to work for a long project, weekly for a high-intensity, short project.
  • Roughly one-third of the way into the project, conduct a formal, standardized survey.
  • At the end of the project, conduct another formal, standardized survey.

You’re probably comfortable conducting the informal, periodic check-ins with your project sponsor, and the end-of-project survey.*

Your consulting firm may be less familiar with how to structure a formal, mid-project client feedback survey. This activity gathers actionable information on how to improve the project and is scheduled roughly one-third of the way into the project, which is early enough to make changes.

Mid-project is also an opportunity to send your client another batch of cookies. (Can’t hurt, right?)

The Mid-Project Feedback Survey

Survey Structure

Schedule a one-on-one, mid-project feedback meeting with the project’s sponsor. Optionally, schedule separate, one-on-one feedback meetings with the client’s project leader and other important contributors.

Collect feedback via a one-on-one conversation using a standardized set of questions.

Have someone not on your project team conduct the feedback session. Reasonable options include an executive assistant, your business coach, or an independent interviewer who is very familiar with your firm.

Survey Content

Solicit your client’s feedback using roughly 15-20 rating questions, broken into three areas:

Output/Outcome – Up to 10 questions about your client’s happiness with the content of your work. These questions will depend on the type of work your consulting firm conducts.

My firm’s projects are primarily advisory engagements; therefore, we ask for a 1-5 rating on attributes such as, “You have a clear path to achieve your Focus Areas for the trimester.”

Structure – Up to five questions about your client’s satisfaction with how you’re working together, including the approach and the team.

For example, one of the attributes we solicit a 1-5 rating on is “Being responsive when you need help.

Value – Three questions that are rated on a 1-10 scale. The three questions are:

Overall, how do you rate the work we’ve been doing together so far?

Based on our work together so far and your sense of how our work is proceeding, how do you rate the value of this project compared to if you had tried to tackle the work using internal resources?

Based on our work together so far and your sense of how our work is proceeding, how do you rate the value of this project compared to if you had not done the project at all?

If your consulting firm receives low scores on any part of the survey or your client notes anything that warrants investigation, schedule a follow-up conversation between yourself and the person who raised the issue to collaboratively develop solutions.

Keep an open mind and always be willing to learn and grow based on feedback from clients.

Have you found collecting feedback from clients to be helpful?

  1. Darcy Bevelacqua
    August 31, 2022 at 10:53 am Reply

    I totally agree. This is very critical to having a successful conclusion to the project and getting future work. I also like to ask about how their business priorities are changing so I am thinking about what we can do to connect the work to other things that are happening so it seems more relevant and useful.

    • David A. Fields
      August 31, 2022 at 11:24 am Reply

      That’s a great addition, Darcy. Asking about their priorities keeps the survey Right-Side Up rather than it being so much about your consulting firm’s work. Thanks for sharing that smart insight!

  2. Jerry Fletcher
    August 31, 2022 at 1:52 pm Reply

    For years I have done video interviews with the clients of my clients. They are aware that the interview will be edited and used for testimonial purposes. I’ve found that the key to making those videos believable is to ask the questions about the concerns the client had before during and after the engagement. Trust is built with the interviewee by doing so. Trust gets built with viewers when you juxtapose the concern and the outcome.

    • David A. Fields
      August 31, 2022 at 2:49 pm Reply

      Excellent format for feedback, Jerry. The before/after testimonial is always compelling. A side note about your example is that you’re conducting the interviews for clients–a third party (you) is able to gather better, deeper, more honest feedback than a firm can gather themselves. The same thing applies to consulting firms and gathering feedback from our clients.

      Thanks for contributing your experience, Jerry.

  3. Rachel K.
    August 31, 2022 at 3:19 pm Reply

    OMG @David Fields!!
    What a timely topic for me! Working on a Project now and yes been with the client for 1 month exactly today (Aug 1, 2022 was the start date).
    I asked him end of last week, for some feedback and what he thought = informally, not using particular targeted questions as you suggest and no word on the street.

    Well actually, even needing clarification on some items that we need to work on for them, and have requested for a quick meeting – Crickets!

    How do you go past this silence, let alone feedback but even for the work to be done (he is transitioning some of the work to me from another firm, so my small team and I are working on what’s needed. However, as we progress we need to start tackling these other sub-projects, he had described them to Collab with the Firm he is moving from to ours, but then in one of the calls he had said we shouldn’t contact them.)
    I need clarification or even at least for him to perhaps hear my suggestions of how to move forward……aaahh.

    This is helpful I hope he comes through.

    • David A. Fields
      August 31, 2022 at 3:50 pm Reply

      Interesting situation, Rachel. Good on you for seeing feedback one month in. It seems that you may have some structural opportunities in how you set up your projects. Do you build in regular, periodic update conversations with the project sponsor? If not, that’s a way to improve your basic project structure that will also create easy opportunities to ask for feedback. Of course, you can also formally build feedback into the project plan.

      At the very least, you can send a note to your client, “Hey, I need your help. Can we jump on the phone for 20 minutes?” Then explain that you need clarification.

      What do you think?

      I’m glad you shared your situation, Rachel. Keep me up to date on your progress.

  4. Ruth
    October 10, 2022 at 10:16 pm Reply

    I am about to try this! I recently received post project feedback from a client and I was like “Why the heck didn’t you tell me this earlier.” And then I realized it’s because I didn’t ask, duh. So now I’m asking.

    • David A. Fields
      October 11, 2022 at 8:16 am Reply

      Good on you for learning and improving your practice, Ruth. Every consultant that’s been in business for a few years has had at least one project go sideways. Maybe it’s our fault, or maybe the client’s or maybe just circumstantial. It happens. The key is learning from it.

      Thanks for sharing part of your adventure with me and other readers, Ruth. Very appreciated!

  5. Desta Goehner
    July 16, 2023 at 11:23 pm Reply

    What do you think about creating a google form for feedback from all of those who attended an event that I was the consultant for? At the end, I got great feedback and would love to capture more than just the main lead’s opinion and experience.

    • David A. Fields
      July 18, 2023 at 3:41 pm Reply

      Creating that google form (or any other instrument) to collect feedback is a great idea. You’ll learn a lot and it also sounds like your gather support for your excellent work. Absolutely worth doing, Desta. Thanks for the question!

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