WithersRavenel has received the 2018 Client Experience Excellence (CX-cellence) Award in the category of Client Connectedness. This award, which is in its inaugural year, is given out by Client Savvy and celebrates client experience innovation and ideas. Firms are recognized for continuously seeking to improve clients’ experiences, starting or completing a CX initiative, and even sharing examples of CX failure that led to reflection, change, and growth. The Client Connectedness category spotlights a firm that has a demonstrated process for integrating client feedback initiatives and insight throughout your firm.
WithersRavenel implemented its first formal client satisfaction program in 2016. Using Client Savvy’s Client Feedback Tool, we collect and respond to feedback at key milestones throughout the life of a project. Our experience with client connectedness using Client Feedback Tool is best demonstrated through a case study involving a city government in North Carolina. The city is small, with between 8,500 and 8,600 residents, and is located in a Tier 2 county according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, which means that it experiences moderate economic challenges.
WithersRavenel’s relationship with this municipality stretches back to at least 2006, and we have served as the city’s on-call engineer for multiple consecutive terms providing a variety of services. Furthermore, our relationship with our chief contact at the city is even older, going back to his time working for another local government. By all accounts, both relationships were rock-solid, and we believed that our previous history would lend itself to open and honest dialogue.
In 2012, WithersRavenel provided a master plan for the renovation of one of the city’s parks, and in 2016, we were hired for the follow-on task of developing construction documents and providing construction observation to bring the renovation to life. Our city contact was selected as the project manager for the follow-on work, which was characterized as “a simple park project.”
Over the course of the project, there were several significant challenges: a series of staff changes at the city, changes in stakeholder expectations about the scope and cost of the project, failure by WithersRavenel to set expectations about how changes to the design would affect budget and schedule, an inexperienced construction contractor, and lack of alignment between the contractor and our construction inspector.
Fortunately, our project manager and our city contact were both committed to using Client Feedback Tool. As the project unfolded, the city contact’s responses and comments reflected his changing attitude toward us. Initially his feedback was very positive, dipping slightly as a result of some weak communication, and then dropping sharply as conflicts escalated.
Recognizing that a valued client relationship was in jeopardy, WithersRavenel sprang into action. Our project manager met with his supervisor and other members of leadership to devise a plan to communicate with the city contact and address the city’s concerns. Our project manager set up multiple internal and external meetings to probe the issues more deeply, identify where processes had failed, and establish a corrective action plan.
The entire process took approximately one month, and the results of these efforts were immediately clear: feedback scores jumped up dramatically, placing them above the start-of-project baseline. WithersRavenel ended up back on solid ground with the city and our contact, and the project is back on track.
We learned that even when you have a good relationship with a contactperhaps especially when you have a long, positive historyit can be difficult for that person to open up and share when they have concerns of feel their needs are not being met, for fear of jeopardizing the relationship. By initiating a dialogue with the client, we were able to reset expectations to address some issues, expand the scope of work to deal with others, and ultimately deliver a project that satisfied the client without having to expend additional time and resources that we could not recover.
In addition, all of this information has been captured in Client Feedback Tool, which has three great benefits. First, when a project manager changes roles or leaves the company before a job is completed, as was the case in the example project, the new project manager is able to get up to speed on past issues quickly and come in prepared, leading to a seamless transition for the client. Second, exceptional cases like this one can be and are presented to WithersRavenel staff to reinforce the value of our CX initiative, increase morale through shared successes, and provide opportunities to discuss strategies for dealing with negative feedback. Third, the information can be a starting point for performance and compensation discussions.
The most important component of our client experience program is, of course, our clients. The best feedback we have received from our clients is their participation, because it shows they want to partner with us and communicate more effectively to make projects a success. We could not be more excited to obligeafter all, we are committed to Our People. Your Success.