The rise of omni-channel client listening

Feedback is everywhere! As a result, there has never been a better time to use client and market feedback to create a competitive advantage. Clients are sharing feedback everywhere. Firms are storing feedback everywhere. How can your firm embrace omni-channel client listening?
There has never been a better time to use feedback to create your competitive advantage.
Clients are sharing feedback everywhere. Firms are storing feedback everywhere.

Traditional client listening is changing. Welcome to the world of omni-channel client listening.

Do you feel underwhelmed by the volume of feedback your firm collects from clients? Or perhaps overwhelmed by the time it takes to find and make sense of the data? If so, you’re not alone!
In March, MyCustomerLens published research into the Future of Client Listening. Professional services firms were asked how they’ve traditionally listened to clients and how they want to do it in the future. Two of the key findings were:
  • Firms have an average of 4 different feedback sources – not just 4 variations of a survey, but 4 different formats of feedback
  • The data from this feedback is disconnected and often stored in places that makes it hard to find, much less summarise
The common story emerging from the research was that forward-looking firms wanted to listen to more clients more often, and then to do more with the data. However the disconnected data, and resulting manual processes, are making it hard to scale up the volume and impact of this business intelligence.
The chart above shows the most common ways firms are currently collecting feedback, with new sources constantly emerging. This web of feedback mirrors what’s happening in B2C, where feedback sources adapt to the evolving customer journey. Some clients want to sit down and have an in-depth chat about their experiences and feedback, some want to type it up when they have time think, others want to quickly ‘dump and run’.
The solution isn’t to try and funnel feedback into a survey. The solution is to re-design the feedback process from the client’s perspective. Your clients will notice the difference, if you make it easy for them to share what’s on their mind.
The challenge is that traditional client listening handles each source of feedback differently. Complaints data is handled through a formal process, while verbal feedback tends to get lost in people’s heads and notebooks. Between the two extremes, individual survey or interview projects create their own stand-alone questions and reports.
If you’re in the marketing team, you probably have an email folder labelled ‘random feedback’ where you save emails from the colleagues who “didn’t know where to put this, so I’m sending it to you”.
When formal feedback gets stored in individual files or shared folders, there’s no obvious place to put all the informal feedback. It could go in a CRM, but notable feedback quickly gets lost. CRM’s are only designed to report on quantitative data, not on text fields.
The ‘where do I put this’ challenge is getting worse. Since the pandemic blurred the lines between work and personal experiences, B2B buyers have been acting more like consumers. Consumers who freely share their needs, expectations and experiences.
In a bid to create a new competitive advantage, forward-looking firms are abandoning periodic feedback and a narrow focus on key accounts. Instead, they’re embracing the opportunity and adopting a mindset of ‘always listening’.
While key account interviews remain a vital touchpoint, they’re now just part of the mix. Feedback sessions, complaints, informal conversations and ‘pulse’ surveys linked to stages in the client journey are all now being used. Modern databases can easily handle the different data formats, and AI makes short work of the text analysis. Quarterly reports have been replaced by monthly, weekly and even daily updates that support more agile decision-making.

This shift to omni-channel listening is part of a wider trend.

In February, McKinsey published their latest B2B research which looked at the rise of omni-channel sales. In 2016 B2B buyers used an average of 5 channels to interact with suppliers. By 2021 is was 10 channels.
“B2B buyers aren’t just moving to omni-channel. They’ve arrived.”
McKinsey’s research also revealed that 72% of B2B buyers expect real-time/always-on customer service and 69% expect readily available customer reviews. These aren’t just nice to haves. This is the percentage of B2B buyers that said they would be willing to switch suppliers if these ‘must dos’ are not offered.
So it stands to reason that your clients expect to communicate, and hence share feedback, through a wide variety of channels. What’s more, they’re expecting to share and get a response very quickly.
To win in this new omni-channel world, firms need to reimagine how they listen to their clients and the wider market. Deep research with key clients remains important but it’s no longer enough.
Clients want to share and be heard, when and where they have something to say. Keeping up requires one of two changes:
  • Investing in a significant increase in people to scale up manual processe
  • Implementing scalable software that enables always-on client listening.

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