There is a quote by Steve Jobs, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try and give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new”.
This can be applied to our practice in allied healthcare and suggests that providing services and making decisions based solely on the feedback of your patients or clients is a recipe for failure.
But what are the reasons why this approach is not considered best practice?
Reason 1: Your client doesn’t always know what they want
The first reason you shouldn’t just ask your clients what they want and set about meeting that desire is that they don’t always know what they want (or need). Steve Jobs also once said, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
It is sometimes difficult for clients to know what it is they want or need, especially if it relates to something they don’t often think about. People have a tendency to stick with what they know. For example, if you asked them….. what would make booking an appointment easier? They may only tell you they like what you currently have in place because they are not aware of the capabilities you could offer, such as online bookings, text message reminders, or so on.
Reason 2: You may plant a resistance seed!
Sometimes, by asking clients questions directly about a particular area that suggest changes are coming, that could alter their current habit and the status quo, it could lead to potential resistance.
It is better to gain a better understanding of their natural tendencies, current routines, and preferences, which results in more insightful information.
For example, in attempting to understand how a person approaches their home therapy program, we can then best assess what channel would suit them best rather than asking “would you like a phone-based app for your home therapy program”?
Reason 3: The need to please others
This is a two-way street – both our clients desire to please us, and our desire to please them and meet their needs.
It is important to understand how this behaviour can influence individuals and skew results or information.
We can sometimes be keen to immediately put into action things which have been identified in our feedback forms, to please our clients – maybe only 1 respondent stated they would like tea and coffee offered in the waiting room? We might have the desire to please them without considering the bigger picture or mission.
Likewise, sometimes the answers provided by clients can be to please us as health practitioners – for example, “Do you like the current handouts for home therapy programs?” – older clients who actually find the text a little hard to read might say, “yes, they are fine,” just to please you!
If you are looking for more tips on developing great client surveys, you can read more here.