Archive for July, 2009

AEBL Summer Symposium Offers Leadership Tips, Great Value, Beautiful Locale

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

The Association of A/E Business Leaders (AEBL) is offering a deal for AEC industry managers that sounds almost too good to be true. The group’s two-day 2009 Summer Leadership Symposium features a quintet of heavy hitters in the leadership coaching arena at the picturesque Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua, N.Y., with a member registration fee of just $375 ($425 for non-AEBL-members).

The symposium takes place August 24-25.

The faculty features John Zumwalt, the CEO of ENR Top 30 firm PBS&J; John Engels, president of Leadership Coaching, Inc.; Sherri McCardle and Jim Ramerman, co-authors of “Why Dogs Wag Their Tails”; and Michael Lillibridge, a nationally renowned psychologist. (Program summary below.)

AEBL Board Member Wayne Wegman, P.E., president of Passero Associates, says, “The quality faculty and low cost are what set this event apart. These are leadership consultants that work all over the world, making as much as $400 or $500 an hour, and our attendees will get a half-day from each, over the course of two days, as well as dinner at a very good restaurant and a cocktail hour, for $375. The value is outstanding.”

The venue is impressive as well. The Inn on the Lake is a full-service resort in the heart of the Finger Lakes. The discount rate for conference attendees is $169 per room, per night (plus tax).

Wegman adds, “It’s also going to be a great place to network. On Monday evening, the 24th, we’ll have the session leaders and all the conference attendees meet to network, ask questions and learn more about their best practices.”

Another plus for attendees is that AEBL is intentionally keeping the event relatively small, with only a limited number of spaces available. The goal is to ensure that all attendees get sufficient attention and opportunity to network, learn and ask questions.

For more information, go to the Summer Symposium page on the AEBL Web Site.

The sessions:

Running a successful business in tough economic times
Sherri McCardle and Jim Ramerman – Co-Authors of “Why Dogs Wag Their Tails”

Developing Leaders
John Engels – President of Leadership Coaching

Leaderships
John B. Zumwalt, III, PE – CEO of PBS&J Corporation

People Map Training
E. Michael Lillibridge, Ph.D., Nationally recognized Psychologist

Lunch and cocktail reception/dinner included on Monday – breakfast/lunch included Tuesday

What To Do With Client Survey Results

Saturday, July 11th, 2009

Following up on the July 8 blog, “More on Client Surveys,” here is a recent e-mail exchange I had with an AEC-firm marketing professional:

LaTonya Whitaker of consulting engineering firm Hankins and Anderson wrote: “I was recently reading your blog post, ‘Do You Really Know What Your Clients Think of You’ and was wondering what your thoughts were on what to do with the actual survey data. How do you formulate the appropriate messages to your clients based on their responses?”

Here was my reply (omitting the introductory niceties, thank yous, etc., but adding an additional thought in brackets):

In most of the surveys I’ve done for AEC firm clients, there are two levels of external response. The first is to provide a general overview of the survey results to everyone who participated. This response is usually a one- to four-page summary of the results, very basic and highlighting the key points. Sometimes we will send this to everyone the client targeted for the survey, not just those who participated, to maximize the marketing benefit. (And sometimes, it’s a two-page summary to participants and one-page overview letter to everyone else…you get the idea.)

You want to be honest in these summaries, addressing the good and not-so-good results, but you want to do it with as positive a spin as possible. For example, if the results for “communications,” were not as impressive as you’d like, note this in the summary, but also mention that the firm recently established a new response policy to ensure improved communications. Obviously, if you hear something seriously negative about the firm or someone in it, you don’t want to explicitly share that in this overview summary.

Depending on the results, we may also do a press release, newsletter article or magazine article pitch. This data is often great for repackaging in your marketing program.

The second level of response addresses specific issues identified by specific clients. If one of the respondents (assuming it’s an open survey, not a blinded one) said that the project manager on their last job did not keep them adequately apprised of the job’s progress, the PIC or firm president should contact that client directly, apologize/get more information, and tell the client what steps the firm is taking to correct the issue.

You’ll also want to address the results internally, usually with one or two meetings. This can be company-wide, principals-only, or (preferably) both. We always include recommendations in our surveys. This would be the venue to discuss those recommendations and implement the ones that make sense. There’s nothing more frustrating for us than to find out that the survey work we did was set aside and never addressed.

[I recall a survey we did several years ago for an engineering firm, during which some of our client's clients said they loved the work that this firm did, but were dissatisfied with their landscape architecture providers. This inspired our client to buy a landscape architecture firm they knew and liked, which allowed them to capture an entirely new revenue stream with many of their existing, satisfied clients.]

Your question is a good one and it speaks to why client surveys are such a valuable tool (especially when they’re done correctly). It offers several opportunities to make contact with clients and prospects, while helping the firm improve external and internal operations.

The bottom line is, do something with the results and use common sense in how you disseminate the information.

Have any readers had different experiences or do you have additional advice?