Hand in front of tech screen that says "target audience"
Exploring the ways contractors can gather & implement feedback to better position their company for growth

In the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry where projects are complex, collaboration is key and customer satisfaction is critically important, the relevance of your customers’ opinion carries significant weight. 

Making the customer the focal point of a business strategy is not just a customer service tactic — it’s necessary for long-term success, growth and resilience in an ever-evolving business environment. It aligns your business with market demands and positions it for sustainable and profitable growth.

To do this, you have to know your customer.


The Voice of Your Customer

Voice of customer research, often abbreviated as VoC, is a systematic process aimed at collecting and analyzing customer feedback. It delves into the thoughts, preferences and needs of your customers and project stakeholders. For AEC contracting and professional service organizations, this research is more than a customer satisfaction survey: The application of VoC becomes a strategic imperative, shaping how businesses service and communicate with other industry partners and customers.

VoC studies that gather insights and feedback can provide direction for your business strategy, guiding your decisions, clarifying your competitive advantage and informing your approach to business development and marketing. They can serve as a bridge between the technical expertise of the delivery team and the expectations of customers, providing insights that are essential for success.

Customer research also builds trust. When customers see that you value their opinions and are actively working to meet their needs, they’re more likely to stick around and become loyal advocates for your brand.


Getting It Done

Now that you recognize the importance of VoC research studies, you have to get it done. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Preparation is key — To be able to connect the dots between customer feedback and strategic decision-making, take time to conduct an internal audit before you begin your customer research. This enables you to compare your internal perspective to your customers, allowing you to translate your research into actionable insights and plans.
  • Select the right customers — Carefully select the customers you want to interview and whose opinions you value. Consider the customer organizations most impactful to your organization and that operate in sectors that offer opportunity. Eliminate customers who are not a good fit for your organization. So, take time to consider what a good customer looks like for your business.
  • Select the right interview format — In the AEC industry where projects are tailored to customer needs, one-on-one interviews provide a depth of understanding that is hard to achieve through surveys or group settings. The personalized interaction of interviews allows the discussion to explore specific issues, probe deeper into customer experiences and uncover insights that might be missed in other formats.
  • Engage an experienced third-party interviewer — Interviews conducted by an independent entity rather than the business itself reduce the chance that customers provide responses they think your business wants to hear. Be sure the third-party party is knowledgeable of the AEC industry and can interpret and understand the nuances of the customer response. This will ensure that meaningful insights can be extracted that might be overlooked by someone without a solid understanding of the industry.

Case in point: The importance of this was discussed with Dan Gregory at CLR Design, who said, “We worked with other consultants in search of statements that defined us. But we lacked a convincing way to connect these abstract statements with specific, outstanding outcomes for our clients. Recognizing this gap, we conducted comprehensive research. The VoC report provided cogent insights from our staff and customers. … connecting the dots between our design ideas and their real-world outcomes.”


Finding Actionable Insights

Connecting customer feedback to strategic decision-making is a critically important step, and often a stumbling block for studies that are not carefully planned and executed. 

To make the data actionable, it’s essential to analyze areas where customer expectations align with your goals and where they deviate. This is the foundation for action plans. So, be sure to review your internal audits.


Interpretation of the feedback should go beyond surface value, so, look for patterns, trends and correlations that are not immediately apparent. This approach provides insights into how the market perceives your brand and competitive position.

Carefully vetting the feedback is crucial. Not all feedback holds equal importance, so prioritize it against your organization’s mission and values. This ensures efficient allocation of resources to address the most impactful action items that come from the feedback.


Case Study

Here is what Jessica Myers, president of a commercial construction company, says about customer research: “A key outcome of the VoC research was understanding what our value drivers were from our customers. It helped us to create a plan and process that can be followed by our entire team, that is scalable, and will keep us accountable to our strategic plan for our company.”


Putting It to Use


Now that you have collected, reviewed and analyzed the feedback, here are a few ways to put the research to work:

  • Train the project team — By understanding what customers value and expect in terms of service, employees can be trained to recognize and respond to these expectations. This might involve communication skills, project management abilities or technical expertise.
  • Build empathy for customer-centric solutions — Empathy is a powerful driver of customer satisfaction. VoC research sheds light on the human side of business, revealing the emotions, challenges and aspirations of customers as people. Training programs can incorporate VoC insights that help professionals to better connect with customers and aid in development problem-solving.
  • Enhance project stakeholder relationships — When project professionals can connect customer feedback to decision-making, they can more effectively communicate with project stakeholders. This transparency builds trust with customers as well as trade and design partners, demonstrating a commitment to actively addressing their concerns and improving collaboration.
  • Tailor marketing messages — VoC feedback can be a valuable guide for tailoring your marketing messages to directly address customer needs, preferences and concerns. This customer-centric approach not only enhances the effectiveness of marketing campaigns but also strengthens the overall relationship between the business and your customers.
  • Seller-doer training — VoC feedback serves as a strategic tool for seller-doers, shaping their selling and service delivery approaches to align closely with customer expectations. By leveraging these insights, seller-doers can build stronger customer relationships, enhance the effectiveness of sales efforts and drive overall business success in the seller-doer model.


Case Study

Evaluating schedule sensitivity in customer feedback for a general contractor required a deeper look than surface observations, and it revealed a nuanced narrative. A deeper look uncovered a correlation — customers with specific time constraints, such as opening a new business location, were notably more sensitive to project team communications related to the project timelines. Even when project deadlines were met, if the project manager’s (PM) communication did not keep the customer informed, the customer relationship suffered. This understanding led to tailored communication solutions by the project field team. In this case, the VoC feedback allowed the PM to look past immediate problem-solving, and to consider long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty.


Case Study

In an interview with a leading national design-build firm, CEO Rob Steigerwald shared his insights: “The details of the voice of the customer research became the theme of our business development, elevator speeches and our seller-doer training. Additionally, the VoC uncovered the most important part of our unique engineering process that our customers value, and what differentiates us from our competitors. … Our marketing focused on this from that day forward.”


By conducting a VoC study, businesses can align their strategies more closely with customer expectations, leading to increased satisfaction, loyalty and, ultimately, business success. It’s a valuable tool for maintaining a customer-centric approach and adapting to evolving market demands.