February 28, 2024

Client listening – your clients want to be heard, not researched

Client listening is evolving from a narrow research focus to a broad always on listening approach. Key client interviews and annual surveys are a great starting point. But they only reveal a snapshot of selected clients. To understand evolving client needs, firms must look at the full picture. Always-on client listening enables you to see it.

Once upon a time, client listening programmes were limited to formal research projects. Data would be gathered via survey and/or key account interviews, and reported back to the business in seasonal PowerPoint reports.
Thanks to advances in cloud databases and text analytics, firms no longer need to limit their feedback sources. New technology has enabled an always-on approach to client listening, where signals are constantly gathered from across the firm and client base.

What is always-on client listening?
Always-on client listening doesn't mean doing more research or spreading it out across the year.
Always-on client listening is a different mindset.

At its heart is the mantra of always be listening. This means making it easy for clients to share when they have something to say. It's about being open to hearing all the signals shared by clients and prospects.

Always-on client listening is a client-led approach. That's because client-centricity starts with how you develop insights about those clients. Researching clients in a time and format that works for the firm, is traditional thinking.

Forward-looking firms are listening to clients in a time and format that works for those clients. They're evolving from listening to measure, to listening to learn.

Think signals not research
Most firm start with researching their clients. They may run key account interviews, annual surveys or a post-matter survey.

Key clients interviews, especially when run by external interviewers, can be very valuable. These one-to-one conversations dig deep to provide a rich understanding of the current relationship. But they don't scale. They're usually conducted with less than 1% of the client base (by volume, it's more by value). They're also conducted with one person while the firm may have interacted with many.

A further limitation is that interviews draw from a biased sample. Partners opt their clients into the process, assuming they don't feel "it's not the right time".

Annual surveys provide a broader snapshot of the client base, but suffer from the same bias. Partners opt in their clients to receive the surveys.

As before these surveys are a moment in time snapshot. This often leads to long surveys asking a wide variety of questions. Multiple-choice questions are used to speed up the responses and analysis. But this means the responses are based on what the firm thinks the clients want to say.

Moving from researching clients to gathering feedback
Always-on client listening enables you to see the signals shared by your clients

Research alone leaves too many insight gaps. Gaps that decision-makers fill with assumptions. Even when the results challenge those assumptions, they're quickly forgotten as people hear new comments that support old thinking.

Always-on client listening closes these gaps by looking beyond research.

Your clients are sharing a wealth of feedback with your firm, both solicited and unsolicited. Feedback that throws light on all stages of the client journey. But the data usually sits in different silos because it's not traditionally considered as client listening.

Pitch reviews, internal debriefs, complaints, testimonials, directories, reviews and informal feedback in comments and emails. These are all rich sources of feedback about new and established clients. Collectively they help to fill-in the insight gaps and turn static research into always-on listening.

Gathering a range of feedback, across all stages of the client journey, also ensures that action can be taken before it's too late. Whether discovering unscripted behaviours that clients love, or processes that are causing friction, fresh feedback is far more valuable than waiting for the work to be done.

Discovering actionable insights
To reveal these richer insights the data needs to be unified. Only then can you discover the early warning signs that could have prevented a complaint. Or the relationship gap that may be undermining pitch success.

Feedback like testimonials and directories are often ignored because they're just happy clients sharing positive experiences. "We already know that" is a common misconception.

But when your dedicated AI algorithms look deeper, you start to see new insights. For example, you see a key element of your value proposition that not even your happiest most loyal clients mention. Do they not value it? Have they not noticed? You won't know to ask if you're not looking.

Moving from gathering feedback to harnessing signals
Unifying research and feedback gives you a much richer data set to analyse. But for your listening to be always-on, there is a third lens to look through.

Research and feedback are all just signals. Signals about client experiences, priorities, needs and expectations.
When you start thinking in terms of signals you see new insights everywhere.

Your CRM is full of signals. It can tell you which clients or prospects have opted-in to your content. Which ones respond to invites and who engages with your thought leadership. Combined with recent conversations, these signals reveal a 3D picture of current relationship strength.

Your billing system also contains valuable signals. When clients start disputing invoices, you can combine these signals with their recent feedback. Now you know if this is a blip or a sign that this client isn't seeing the value for money they once did.

Embracing always-on client listening
At this point you may be thinking two things:
  • If we had all these client signals at our fingertips it would transform how we make decisions and deliver client value.
  • I don't have the time/skills/inclination to build that picture.
That's where always-on client listening platforms like MyCustomerLens come in. They put the data gathering, analysis and reporting on auto pilot.

Personalised surveys are set up for you. Data is uploaded automatically. The bespoke algorithms analyse and compare all the signals in real time. Role-specific dashboards ensure that the right people get the right insights at the right time.

This frees you up as a Marketing, Business Development or Client leader to focus on turning insights into action. By informing more agile decision-making, client-centricity becomes a reality.

Always-on client listening enables you to show - not tell - clients that you are listening.

By focusing on informed action, the ROI of your client listening programme becomes clear.

More importantly, it ensures clients feel heard not researched.

Time for a chat, or prefer to keep informed?

Is your firm ready to implement always-on client listening?
With a quick video call, we can help you decide.

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