Client feedback

Oct 29, 2018

It’s not always flattering, but hearing from those you work for and with, and acting on it, is key to improving your products and services.

We’ve all become accustomed to, and maybe a little weary of, giving and receiving feedback these days. You can’t get a ride from Uber or go out to dinner without being asked to do it. You can’t even buy a $6 battery from Amazon without being asked to rate, assign stars, or write lengthy comments about the experience!

But we can’t let a fad, a fad that perhaps has run amuck, excuse us from not just offering feedback, but from receiving it from clients. Learning about our performance from the customer’s point of view is of the utmost importance for every AEC firm and, for that matter, any business that exists to satisfy the needs of others.

A professional services firm is a personal services firm. We start as human beings whose sincere purpose is to serve other human beings. It’s our obligation to accept their candid feedback on how we did. This means making it easy for clients to provide constructive criticism. And once we hear it, we must act decisively on what was learned.

As simple and obvious as this sounds, it is remarkable how often we fall short, both in seeking out feedback and our response to it. Inevitably, we pay the price of our shortcomings with less repeat business and a damaged reputation. When this happens, sadly, we miss valuable opportunities to improve and grow.

The great paradox in the science of customer service is that those who have had a problem with a product or service – and when the firm responds quickly and effectively to address the problem – oftentimes are more satisfied than if they’d never had a problem in the first place!

Zweig Group is among those businesses that exists only to serve our customers. We provide data, a broad range of consulting services, and a comprehensive suite of training and development programs for AEC professionals. We aim to elevate the entire industry – in your eyes, the eyes of your clients, and the eyes of the world! Our success, or failure, depends in large part on what you, our clients, think about how we did. Since this article is all about giving, and more importantly, receiving, feedback – and to take a dose of our own medicine – we thought it might be interesting to look at some of the responses we’ve received from attendees of our events and seminars, and to make a few points on the value of what we learned.

“I love the contrast between the data versus the human side.” – Attendee at Leadership Skills for AEC Professionals, Miami

Some say our culture is addicted to logical consistency, data, and analytics. This is natural for engineers. But we can’t forget that embedded in human beings is a certain mystery that will never fully conform to our need for logical consistency. However, that human mystery does respond to motivation, creative expression, and to mutual relationships with clients, co-workers, and even new acquaintances. In our work and in the programming of our material, we will always acknowledge the person and his or her human needs. It is intensely gratifying when efforts in this area are acknowledged.

“There were too damn many PowerPoint slides!” – Attendee at Business Development Training for AEC Professionals, Miami

Indeed, there is such a thing as death by PowerPoint, when our sincere desire to impart all we’ve learned becomes counter-productive. Information overload causes fatigue. We responded to this challenge by counter-balancing formal presentations with more group interaction within the seminars themselves, and social interaction outside the formal training. We also recruited speakers whose expertise and experience falls outside the AEC industry, who in some cases deliver presentations without any PowerPoint slides at all.

“I wish all the presenters had PowerPoint from their presentations included in the leave behind.” – Principal at Real Marketing and Branding, Miami

Well, sometimes we all may have a feeling of being “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” But that can’t dissuade us from doing our best to accommodate all points of view. All points of view are valid. While we make certain compromises to create content that meets the common denominator of interest, we have to keep listening and trying to strike the right balance. We offer individualized programming to meet the individual needs and preferences of people and firms.

“The project management processes you shared were great, but it doesn’t really help if I’m the only one in my firm who knows them.” – Project Manager at Excellence in Project Management, Boston

Here is an example of incredibly valuable feedback that, to be completely candid, we failed to fully understand in our development of an otherwise excellent course. As a consequence of this feedback, Zweig Group took two important actions:

  1. Through marketing and incentives, we encouraged firms to send multiple attendees, so that those returning to the job could reinforce each other in implementing new project management processes and programs.
  2. We mobilized our team of instructors to conduct training events on-site at the clients’ firms. These in-house training events have proven themselves to be among our most well-received and impactful programs – thanks to the candid feedback from an attendee.

“I wish I had done this seminar about five years ago and won’t let that happen to my team. You will be seeing more of us at other ZG events in the near future!” – Principal attending The Principals Academy, Aspen

While we may grow more through negative feedback and constructive criticism, it sure feels good to know when we’ve struck a chord and are doing something right! The best part about Zweig Group’s long history of interacting with, and learning from, the nation’s best performing AEC firms is that we have the opportunity to share these insights, knowledge, and best practices with an otherwise fragmented and isolated industry.

Please continue to tell us how we are doing and encourage your clients to do the same with you. We all want to improve – our mutual success depends on it.

Melissa Swann is the events manager at Zweig Group. She can be reached at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.