Each business has a process for customer intake. Doctors ask what symptoms you’re experiencing; lawyers look at your risk exposure; business consultants look at your challenges and opportunities. And almost universally, they all take some sort of notes.

What’s usually missing, however, is the ability to confirm that your service providers heard and understand your needs. As a service provider ourselves, we felt the downside of that lack, and struggled to manage the problems that came along it. Virtually everyone has had a conversation where they said something and the other person said they didn’t. It’s not just a bad feeling – the misunderstanding sets the relationship on the wrong foot and damages one’s ability to provide the best possible service.

Knowing that pain firsthand, we set out to find a solution. The practice we developed is likely the simplest solution that one can implement: we take our notes like everyone else does and then share those notes back to our clients. We ask them to confirm that we captured our conversation accurately. We do this while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind – usually within 24 hours – for the best fidelity.

This serves multiple purposes for multiple parties:

  • confirms that we heard what the client asked for
  • serves as a checklist internally as we work through the current round of updates
  • provides a shareable document for people that couldn’t attend the meeting but want to know what transpired
  • represents what we knew at a given point in time – especially helpful as future knowledge usually overshadows past knowledge
  • allows the client to mention anything else they forgot, or that wasn’t captured in the notes

It’s become so important to the success of our projects that we don’t move forward without the confirmation. With this one simple step, we’ve virtually eliminated all misunderstandings or missed cues to work on something; we’ve removed all uncertainty that comes a week or a month later about what we discussed; we’ve made people with that all of their other vendors – regardless of industry – used the same method.