Thursday, March 19, 2009

Service Excellence in Short Supply

As many of you know, I’ve long maintained that superior client service is the best differentiation strategy in our industry. Last week I stumbled across still more evidence to support my claim. The consulting firm Morrissey Goodale recently published the A/E Industry Customer Service Report Card which summarizes their survey of project owners.

Notable in the report is the paucity of high marks for several key service areas. Following are some highlights from the report:

Only 16% of clients gave their A/E service providers an A grade for overall satisfaction. A fourth of respondents gave firms they worked with a C. Sixty percent gave their firms a grade of B.

The lowest scores were largely related to the direct interaction with the client. Only 14% of firms got an A for communications. Project managers received the highest score only 12% of the time. Project management earned the lowest score of all--7%.

Firms also fell short in the traditional basics of project delivery. Schedule compliance earned an A from only 12% of clients, work quality 14%, and budget 20%. Many technical professionals will admit some weakness in the "touchy-feely" realm of client relations. But most like to think they're competent in these bread-and-butter aspects of projects.

Architectural firms significantly trailed engineering firms. In terms of overall client satisfaction, engineering firms were given an A from 21% of clients, but architectural firms from only 10%. Architects also trailed in most other service categories in the survey. Client comments suggested a common conflict between the creative proclivity of architects and the practical demands of clients.

Granted, A/E firms got a solid B grade overall, and no less than an average of B- in any one of the service categories. That may seem good enough. But that’s precisely my point. What is good enough for most firms represents an opportunity to differentiate your firm by going above the norm. And when you talk to clients, you realize that going above the norm is hardly an unreasonable goal.

If you’d like to see the report yourself, I would encourage you to do so. Besides the survey results, the authors include representative client comments and some service improvement suggestions. You can purchase it for download from
Morrissey Goodale for $49.

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