Successful client feedback programmes enable professional services firms to make informed business decisions, based upon comprehensive client opinion. The wider the reach, the more information and actionable insight you can gather on a continuous basis, the more informed your decision making is likely to be.
A firm wide feedback programme can take a significant time investment to achieve, but there are a number of ways you can increase the success of the programme. The following top tips discuss how to implement a successful client feedback programme.
1. Get sponsorship from the top and link feedback to strategic business priorities - Without an executive committee level Project Sponsor it’s going to be tough, the sponsor is going to make sure that the needs of clients are matched with those of the firm. They are going to have a good understanding of the firm’s strategic objectives, such as driving profitability through enhanced fee recovery or overseeing key client management. Once the link between the programme objectives and your firm’s strategy are clear, securing buy-in across your firm becomes less of an obstacle.
2. Choose your programme team wisely - Reporting to the Project Sponsor will be a Project Manager, and reporting to the Project Manager will be one or more Data Specialists. The Project Manager initially needs planning and coordination skills to get a programme underway, but after a while their focus changes to the management and sequencing of the interviews (who, why and when) and the prioritisation of the client feedback once its received back. They need tenacity to drive through the programme as well as leading subsequent initiatives, typically questionnaire evolution, enhanced reporting and briefings. The data specialist has an eye for detail, is likely to eat spreadsheets for breakfast and enjoys preparing reports prior to distribution. Ensure your client feedback project team understand both the big picture (i.e. your firm’s commercial objectives) and the project detail.
3. Demonstrate ROI from the outset - Implementing a programme can be time consuming, and it’s easy to get bogged down in process. From the start, look for ‘value stories’ to demonstrate success and publicise widely. Not all value stores are as clear-cut, but every up-sell opportunity, every testimonial or referral, every client issue resolved should be logged and attributed to the programme to evidence its value. ROI also comes in many other forms e.g. scaling up volumes of interviews, case study suggestions, providing content for internal conferences etc.
4. Set KPIs and report systematically - Benchmarking and tracking trends ensures a focus on what needs to be done and provides evidence of success when achieved. It’s a truism that what gets measured gets done.
5. Offer options not opt out - Have you been told ‘there is no need to talk to my clients as there is nothing new to hear’ or ‘the approach is inappropriate’. A programme has to have firm-wide coverage to be truly successful, so offer options that fit the business processes to which they will support. Offer different interview methods (in-person, telephone, web surveys) and different occasions (post matter, relationship, post pitch, lapsing client) to meet the specific needs of different client groups, and reflect the importance of the client.
6. Recognise and reward engagement as well as success - The objective is to drive future improvement and client focus, not to berate staff for what has happened in the past. Whilst there is a natural inclination to bury negative feedback, use it to demonstrate what can be achieved when an issue is effectively addressed. So publicly celebrate the fee earner who elicited client criticism but then went on to turn around the situation on the next piece of work as much as the one who capitalised on a new opportunity.
7. Communication, communication, communication - Share what clients say as widely as possible within your organisation, and share results externally too. It’s not just the preserve of fee earners and shareholders – but when appropriate content is also shared with business and marketing executives, every member of staff can have a role to play in meeting client needs and promoting the firm. There are ways to do this efficiently and sensitively. Advising clients of your intention to gather their feedback is a most effective way to gain their considered opinion, and it also diffuses internal resistance. Communicating what has been learnt and what the firm is going to do about it reassures clients you are not just listening but responding too.
8. Reporting - Bring all of your client feedback insight into a single place to aid using the information. To gain valuable, business-critical data from client feedback, it is necessary to collate insight collected in multiple feedback conversations, using multiple data collection methods using an interactive online portal with graphics, reports dashboards to make content accessible in real time to those who need it. See how we do it in with CustomServe.
9. Act on what you have learnt - This is most important of all. Client feedback is a catalyst and must provoke a response, whether as simple as picking up the phone to pursue an opportunity or instigating a major change to the invoicing system. If nothing happens, the programme was overhead not investment. Your client feedback programme is likely to support a change programme. It doesn't have to be that big, but make sure someone, somewhere does something differently.
Acuigen have over 25 years’ experience in offering client feedback services across many industries and sectors. If you choose to outsource your client feedback programme to us, we can support the entire project or assist with specific elements. As well as interviewing services we pride ourselves on our CustomServe Client Insight platform that is used to document interviews, store, collate and report client feedback in a systematic manner. CustomServe is also designed to simplify the representation of client feedback, providing near real time information in formats optimised for different audiences across a professional services firm. This allows the sharing of client and market knowledge, adding value for clients and delivering bottom line benefits.
If you’re interested in initiating or scaling up a client feedback programme in your firm, get in touch with the team who can offer a tailored package based on your needs.