The relentless push to improve is core to our culture at Atomic Object. We spend a lot of time focused on professional development and introspecting about how we can better develop software products. Over the last few years, we’ve also been sharpening our approach to gathering client feedback — we believe it’s essential to our company’s long-term success and in keeping with our value of transparency. In this blog post, I’ll describe how we go about gathering feedback on our projects.
We look for client feedback before, during, and after working on projects. We are interested in hearing how our clients feel about working with us at each stage. Our questions, and what we hope to gain from them, vary based on when we ask:
Before: the pre-project interview. At this stage, we have two big goals: (1) to learn why we were chosen as a partner for the project, and (2) to glean more information about our client’s goals prior to kickoff.
During: regular check-ins. Our brand promise is to provide great software for our clients and also a good experience along the way. We need to regularly check in to find out how we’re doing during project execution.
After: the post-project interview. Here we are looking for candid responses to the question of how our team performed throughout the project. We want to collect data on how satisfied our customers are, so we can better understand their future needs and get feedback on how we can improve.
1. Before the Project
During our pre-project interview, our main goal is to get feedback on our sales process and gather information on how our clients are evaluating potential partners. It’s also an opportunity to get another data point on their hopes and fears for the project prior to kickoff.
Who: Our marketing department conducts the interview with the main stakeholder from our client team.
How: We ask questions like, “How did the sales process go? What challenges were you facing and what motivated you to solve them?”
The information we get during the pre-project interview is shared with the project team prior to kickoff. We’ve found that these answers contain a lot of insight and help us better tune our early project activities.
2. During the Project
Projects differ, but we generally follow a scrum-like Agile software development approach that includes regular meetings and check-ins with clients. This process includes opportunities to get feedback on how the project is going, including backlog grooming, sprint reviews, and a detailed review of risk mitigation spreadsheets.
We gather feedback during the project, so we can uncover pain points as soon as possible. This helps us address them collaboratively with our clients. Some typical problems that I’ve seen include a lack of clear roles among our team or our client’s team, misaligned expectations for some aspect of the project, poor communication, or delivery-related risk (e.g., related to budget, timelines or technical delivery).
Another tool we use is the internal team health check. Our Director of Product Micah Alles runs the health checks with our project teams and communicates serious issues to Managing Partners, who can then take next steps to talk to clients directly, if necessary.
Who: Our project leaders and the director of product.
How: Regular meetings throughout the project. Sprint reviews, backlog grooming, and risk analysis are typically done bi-weekly. Team health checks happen quarterly.
3. After the Project
After the project, we strive to close the feedback loop by conducting post-project interviews. Our goal with these interviews is to understand overall client satisfaction and learn what we can for future projects.
Who: Our marketing department conducts the interview with the main stakeholder on our client team. We believe it’s important to have someone who was not involved directly in the project conduct the interview — it allows the interviewee to be more candid.
How: We ask questions like, “What could we do better? What did you appreciate about our process? How would you rate your overall satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10?”
Post-project interviews have been tremendously valuable in understanding our client’s feelings for how projects went. We have found that it’s very difficult to make accurate guesses about what a client is thinking without asking directly. In the best-case scenario, we get wonderful reviews and actionable feedback. In the worst-case scenario, we give our client an opportunity to vent about things that didn’t go perfectly.
We share the interview with the project lead and let them share internally with the project team. Our marketing team will also email nice words out to the company as a whole as a form of recognition for good project work.
We started doing post-project interviews in 2016, and our pre-project interviews began in the last year. We’ll continue to refine our feedback gathering techniques in the coming years. I’d love to hear about how you collect feedback from your customers, especially for services.