November 23, 2023

Replace your seasonal projects with a feedback flywheel

In a competitive market, where firms are striving for a competitive edge, momentum can be the difference between success and stagnation. But how can Marketing and BD teams build this momentum and turn insights into actions that drive incremental revenues? The answer is to create a Feedback Flywheel.

Have you experienced the flywheel effect across your client and market intelligence? That sense of momentum where each piece of insight and each resulting action seem to build on each other.

In a competitive market, where firms are striving for a competitive edge, momentum can be the difference between success and stagnation. But how can Marketing and BD teams build this momentum and turn insights into actions that drive incremental revenues?

The answer is unifying your client and market intelligence to create a Feedback Flywheel. This flywheel isn’t just about closing the loop - though that step is very important. The Feedback Flywheel creates a new reality of always-on client listening.

Traditionally, client feedback has been seen as discrete, one-off projects with a clear beginning, middle, and end. These projects are designed to answer research questions at a defined point in time. Once completed, the powerpoint reports slowly fade into the background as individual assumptions guide day-to-day decision-making.

But what if “that’s the way we’ve always done it” wasn’t the only way?
Enter the Feedback Flywheel. Rather than viewing client listening as a series of isolated projects, the Feedback Flywheel embraces the concept of continuous momentum. Each action builds upon the last, driving the firm forwards with increasing speed. It's all about creating a virtuous cycle of growth, where insights lead to actions and action generate new insights.

The Feedback Flywheel
The Feedback Flywheel has 5 parts, each feeding the next and benefiting from what came before.
  • Always be listening - keep your finger on the pulse by collecting feedback across the entire client journey
  • Centralise the data - keep everyone on the same page by combining all your feedback data in one place
  • Automate the analysis - use AI to make sense of text comments in a fast and consistent way
  • Give results context - benchmark insights in real-time to empower faster and more informed decision-making
  • Close the loop - drive action and future engagement by showing clients, prospects and your people what you are doing
1. Always be listening
Traditionally, formal feedback has only been collected at the end of a client project. While this provides a valuable snapshot, actionable insights are being missed because the richest insights come when the feedback is fresh.

For example, the best time to ask about how clients found out about your firm, is at the start of the engagement. The best time to ask about how you can improve their experience is when you still have time to change things.

Always be listening leads to hearing from more clients more often. Feedback is being collected across the whole client journey using both formal and informal channels. This doesn’t mean sending lots of surveys. It means consistently asking 1 or 2 questions at different touch-points. For example:
  • While onboarding a new client – “what was it that made you choose us?
  • “When a project starts – “what would a great experience look like to you?”
  • Half way through a project – “how are we doing?”
  • You are probably asking these questions already. Always-on client listening means asking all your clients and recording the responses.
2. Centralise the data
Clients are willing to share more feedback in more places than ever before. As well as surveys and interviews, their voice is being heard in online reviews, directories, pitch feedback, emails, verbal comments and complaints. This isn’t just personal clients. Corporate clients are also getting used to rating services and writing reviews. Most likely your feedback data is ending up in different places, which makes it hard to analyse.

Our professional services research earlier this year revealed that the 3 most common place for feedback to be stored is:
  • Individual documents
  • Peoples heads and notebooks
  • Email inboxes.
While the data remains stuck in these siloes, it is impossible to generate a single client view or to consistently analyse the comments.

To be able to spot emerging themes, root causes and new testimonials, you need all your feedback in one place. To start with this could be a shared folder, shared spreadsheet or Slack channel.

Somewhere that everyone can save relevant documents, research and anecdotal feedback.
From here, the progression is to a shared database that makes text analysis easy and scalable. Once you have a single source of truth that is capable of analysing and reporting on text comments (CRM’s can only store text comments against a client), your feedback flywheel starts building momentum.

3. Automate the analysis
Unstructured verbatim comments provide the richest insights. You discover what’s happening on the ground, in the client’s own words. But traditionally firms have had to trade insight against speed.

Manually analysing text feedback takes time. It also becomes subjective and inconsistent as more people get involved. The choice used to be between “a quick survey” or in-depth research. But not any more.

Natural language processing (NLP) algorithms have solved this problem, enabling firms to scale up analysis without need to increase resources. When NLP algorithms are designed specifically for professional services firms, they can unlock a wide range of insights because they’re looking for 10s of 1,000s of terms at once. We humans can only successfully search for a handful of terms at once, and it takes us much longer.

With text analysis automated, firms can use the most appropriate feedback channel each time. The AI significantly accelerates text analysis and hence the creation of new feedback intelligence. It also increases consistency and ensures new themes get spotted sooner.
This is a good example of the flywheel at work. Once firms are benefiting from automated AI analysis, they can scale up their client listening.  Removing the resource constraints means feedback can be collected from more clients more often because they’re no longer limited by the people available to review or tag feedback.

4. Give results context
How do you know what insights are significant? By putting them in a wider context. Insights become actionable when they can be benchmarked over time and across sectors, jurisdictions and business lines.

This comparison is not just about satisfaction ratings. Benchmarking text analysis helps decision-makers to see the full picture by highlighting:
  • Inconsistent experiences
  • Emerging themes
  • Emerging client needs and expectations
  • Whether past decisions are improving current performance
  • Whether client experiences align with the firm’s brand promises
The Feedback Flywheel accelerates when firms have the ability to compare insights in real-time. As new feedback comes in, the big picture evolves. Firms no longer have to rely on guesswork and assumptions.

Pitch feedback can be compared to the value-add requested in the RFP and to the resulting client experiences. Relationship strength can be compared to incremental revenues. Internal best practice can be discovered, analysed and replicated across the firm.

When you’re always listening, automating analysis and giving the results context in real-time, your firm can make faster and more informed decisions. This agility also enables, and benefits from the final stage, closing the loop.

5. Close the loop
Having collected, analysed and summarised your client-related feedback, it’s time to close the loop. Report back to clients and employees about what you’ve heard and what you’re doing in response.
For your clients, this could be creating a regular section in your client newsletter that has a ‘you said’, ‘we did’ table. This consistent transparency has two important benefits. It shows the clients who are sharing feedback, that you are genuinely listening. It also shows the other clients that their peers are sharing feedback and getting a response. Both benefits build trust and improve future response rates.

Secondly, you must close the loop with your people. Share what you’ve heard from them and your clients, what you’re planning to do about it and how it may impact them.

Also take the opportunity to celebrate success. Make sharing and collecting feedback a positive experience, by highlighting examples of great client experiences. Some of our more client-centric firms even have quarterly awards for staff who get the best customer or peer feedback.

Closing the loop with both clients and employees builds trust, drives up future response rates and creates a platform for celebrating success. In short, the Feedback Flywheel keeps accelerating.

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.

Alternatively, keep up to date with Outside-in, the newsletter for client-centred professional services firms.

Privacy & Permissions

Privacy policy

 Read full details.

Cookie policy

 Read full details.

Analytics - Google

Google tracks you everywhere, so make sure you know what you're letting yourself in for...