Client listening
The complete guide for professional and business services firms

Why is client listening important?

B2B firms are now part of the experience economy. It matters to clients how services are delivered.

2020 saw a dramatic shift in both client expectations and how firms delivered their services. Client listening is the best way for decision-makers to know how they are doing. Being able to anticipate and respond to change quickly, gives firms a competitive advantage.

What is client listening?

Effective client listening is more than asking questions or collecting data. It’s a culture driven by a desire to understand the client’s perspective. A desire to see their situation from their point of view. When done well, client listening is forward-looking. It discovers future needs and expectations as well as current experiences and priorities.

“The problem is, we’re good at collecting data but no so good at doing something with it”

Have you ever wondered why your firm doesn’t do more with the data it collects from clients? It may be that feedback is collected only to measure or respond to past experiences. When you listen to understand, it comes with a commitment to do something with what you hear. This is a process that client’s benefits from too. Feeling heard builds trust and strengthens their relationship with the firm.

How to listen to your clients

The average firm has five different sources of client-related feedback, some have many more. Thinking about the entire client journey, how many of the following sources of client-related feedback does your firm have?

  • Pitch feedback
  • Start of project/matter discussions
  • Client Interviews
  • Partner meetings
  • End of project/matter surveys
  • Relationship surveys
  • Social media
  • Feedback forms
  • Ad hoc verbal feedback
  • Ad hoc email comments
  • 3rd party research reports

In addition, your employees have a front-row seat to the impact of both client experiences and the processes used to deliver them. These observations and ideas may be shared verbally with managers or colleagues, but rarely get captured in a robust and centralised way.

What’s the difference between feedback and listening?

Client listening is the holistic process of understanding client needs, expectations and experiences. Showing clients that you’re listening, requires going beyond asking for formal feedback. A holistic approach also includes the ability to collect, aggregate and respond to ad hoc and public feedback, as well as 3rd party research.

The goal is to have a scalable process that makes it easy for clients (and employees) to share feedback when and where they have something to say. In this way, firms get to hear the unfiltered voice of their clients while they still have time to respond to it.

How can we future-proof our client listening process?

At the start of 2021, we asked 15 professional services firms what they’re ideal client listening process looked like. The overwhelming view was that the ideal world would be “automated”, ”streamlined” and “reaching more clients”. To future proof your own listening programme, look for ways to make it more:

Scalable – enabling more clients to be heard more often.

Aggregated – bringing multiple sources of feedback together, to create a single source of truth.

Aligned – taking away some of the subjectivity around who gets asked what and when so that the resulting insights can be used for both tactical and strategic decision-making.

To download the Future of Client Listening‘ report, click here

Want to read more?

Research report – the future of client listening

5 client listening tips for professional services

Client listening for accountants

3 tips for monitoring client relationships