May 11, 2021

How much feedback do we need from our clients?

Professional services firms have reached a fork in the road. Digital transformation is now evolving what firms deliver to their clients and how. To keep up, firms are looking at how they use client-related feedback to make faster and more informed decisions.

But there are two paths ahead. Do they create a scalable feedback process they can grow into? Or stick with traditional manual processes until the volume gets too much?

How much feedback does our firm need?

Will more feedback help us make better decisions?

How much feedback do we need before it makes sense to automate our feedback process?

I get asked these questions a lot at the moment. That’s because professional services firms are at a fork in the road.

The traditional approach

Traditionally firms have operated an “I know my clients” model. Feedback was shared between individuals, often verbally. Retrospective surveys were used to track key metrics. This was enough feedback because “if the client had a problem they would tell me”.

Feedback reimagined

Then the pandemic struck. Client needs and expectations started changing, as did service delivery. Firms needed a collective and current view of what clients were thinking and feeling.

Individuals knowing individual clients was no longer enough. Annual surveys were out of date. In some cases, the existing client listening process was paused, and replaced by BD teams phoning clients. The insights were fresh but they were also selective and disconnected from what the rest of the firm was hearing.

So back to the two questions…

Will more feedback help us make better decisions?

Yes and no. Simple actionable insights are not just a product of feedback volume. They also depend on the breadth and recency of feedback.

For example, you may have lots of feedback but only from a few key clients. In this case, the feedback won’t reflect the views and experiences of your wider client base. Similarly, you may only gather feedback about established client relationships. This feedback is valuable in that context, but won’t inform decisions about improving new client experiences.

Or you may have run a firm-wide client listening programme a year or two ago. The surveys got a great response, but the world has moved on since then. The feedback is too dated to still be influencing decisions.

To make fast and informed decisions, you need to be collecting continuous feedback. Encourage feedback across all practice areas and all stages of the client journey. For example, interview new and emerging clients as well as your key clients. Our partners include Anna Lake Consulting, RTZ Upstream and Client Talk who are skilled at using client interviews to uncover golden nuggets. We support their services by giving their clients the ability to aggregate the verbatim comments and compare them across other feedback sources. Adding interview and survey data together gives firms a more rounded picture of how their clients are feeling.

How much feedback do we need before it makes sense to automate our feedback process?

This depends on how important the voice of the client is to your firm. Client-related feedback is being shared in more places than ever before. But traditional feedback processes aren’t set up to take advantage of it.

Does this sound familiar? Selected clients get interviewed; some others get annual surveys. In both cases, the numbers are restricted because manual reporting takes too long. Meanwhile, the volume of informal verbatim comments shared verbally or through emails and reviews keeps growing.

The volume of feedback is consciously or unconsciously limited to fit the process. The status quo culture is based on getting just enough to get by. It’s a bit like an athlete who does just enough training to beat their local competitors.

But what if that athlete wants to compete on a bigger stage? Do they start training for it now, or wait until they get there?

The alternative approach is to create a process now, that can grow with the firm. A process that has the flexibility to deliver value today, and scale for tomorrow.

Put another way – feedback expands to fill the process. If you have an expensive manual process, there’s no incentive to collect more views from clients or employees. If you’re waiting until feedback volumes grow, it will never happen. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

The fork in the road – how much is enough to keep up?

Few people would argue the importance of listening to clients. So most firms see the value of continuous client feedback driving future transformation.

In response I see firms choosing 1 of 2 paths to future-proofing their firm:

1) Improve the process now, so we can start listening to more clients more often.

2) Wait until feedback volumes increase, then improve our process to cope with it.

Which road are you taking..?

This post first appeared on LinkedIn

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