Idea in brief
How firms conduct client listening is changing. The pandemic disrupted traditional client engagement. It forced professional services firms to manually gather more feedback, from more clients, more often. In response firms are embracing the mindset of always-on client listening.
Imagine that you’ve been selected to compete on an international sports team. Excited for your first game, you turn up to discover this team is a little unusual.
For example, the team only gets feedback from the coach after a game. Not before the game or during it, just after.
Equally strangely, the coach only gives feedback to individual players and they don’t share what they heard!
So how are you feeling about your new team? Do you think this approach to feedback and coaching will catch on?!
This example is of course ridiculous. International teams are focused on continuous improvement through performance monitoring, real-time feedback and clear communications.
But outside of sport, this scenario is more common. Many B2B firms take a similar approach to collecting and sharing client feedback.
Individual partners have individual relationships with individual clients. They may have daily conversations with clients about the matter at hand, but they only ask for feedback once a year. Not all clients get asked for feedback, and the results languish in individual files, notebooks and people’s heads. This last point was one of the key findings from our Future of Client Listening research back in March.
The changing face of client listening.
The pandemic disrupted traditional client engagement. It forced professional services firms to manually gather more feedback, from more clients, more often. Business Development teams were phoning existing clients to ask ‘how are you doing, how are we doing and what are our competitors doing’?
Through this manual client listening process, Boards gained a valuable flow of new insights about their clients and market while the clients appreciated the multiple points of contact.
Fast forward to today. Hybrid working and digitised services demand these same deep and regular insights to enable agile and evidence-based decision-making. The difference now is that firms must find a faster and more sustainable way to create these insights.
In response, the nature of client listening is changing. Periodic and decentralised feedback, is giving way to real-time, centralised insights. New technologies like AI and cloud computing make it easy to gather more feedback, from more clients, more often. They also enable firms to do more with the resulting data.
Strengthening – not replacing – personal relationships.
This client listening change isn’t about technology replacing personal relationships. Professional and financial services firms thrive on the strength of their client relationships. This won’t change any time soon. Key account interviews will still be used to gather formal feedback. Informal feedback will still be gathered from 1-2-1 conversations and emails.
What’s changing is where that data goes. Modern cloud databases enable transcripts, emails, call notes, online reviews, complaints and survey data to all be stored together. AI-powered text analysis can instantly make sense of all the unstructured comments.
What does this mean?
This means that firms no longer have to go through the painful process of creating, running and waiting for annual surveys. It means qualitative insights are no longer restricted to a handful of key accounts or stories shared over the water cooler.
The future is always-on listening
Instead, your firm can gather feedback when your clients have something to say, rather than when you’re ready to ask. With data getting aggregated automatically, silos become a thing of the past. With AI doing the heavy lifting on the text analysis, you’re free to gather feedback at all stages of the client journey.
What’s more, the active client intelligence helps you to quickly close the loop with your clients. Experiences can be changed, and expectations can be managed, all while the work is going on. This strengthens client relationships and boosts your firm’s reputation – making it easier to see how client listening is changing business outcomes.
This brings us full circle and back to the sports analogy I started with. Always-on client listening enables you to gather and share insights with all team members, throughout the game. This ensures you can quickly see and respond to what’s working well, and adapt to what isn’t.
By listening more broadly and frequently, you can also start to see new situations emerging sooner. If you can discover and respond to client needs quickly, you gain a competitive advantage from being able to find and close leads before your competitors.
So how is your firm improving your team’s performance? Is feedback still being heard by individual players when the game’s over? Or have you found ways to listen to more clients more often?