There is no escaping it, the past 2 years of the pandemic have had a significant impact on many businesses across the world and has massively impacted the world’s economies. For some businesses it has brought great fortune and opportunity, but for many others it has created uncertainty and turmoil.
During the upcoming period of economic recovery, it is therefore essential for professional advisors and their firms to keep aligned with their clients’ evolving needs and expectations.
A well-designed client feedback programme is an important tool that can help you achieve this.
In this blog article, we describe 10 tips to help build success into your client feedback programme and identify factors that, if ignored, may result in it being harder for you to get the most out of your programme.
1. Keep clients at the centre of what you do
Keeping clients at the epicentre of everything your firm does makes good business sense. By understanding their opinions and their needs you are better positioned to create ‘client perceived value’ (CPV), win more of their work, and mitigate risk.
2. Leverage top-level buy-in for your programmes, and link its outputs into your business plan
Communicate how your client feedback programme is a part of your firm’s business plan, how it benefits both clients, fee-earners and your firm as a whole.
Take the time to think about your firm’s business objectives and link your client feedback programmes questions to them. The client insights you collect will have more meaning and be of more use.
If you have difficulty linking the outputs of your programme to your firm’s business goals, or you are collecting information that you cannot use effectively, you are either interviewing the wrong people or your questionnaires probably needs a revamp – both of these issues can normally be easily solved.
3. Choose your team wisely
For your programme to excel, you need a small diverse team to lead, spread enthusiasm and promote the programme’s benefits within the firm. Your programme team will typically include a project sponsor, with a direct line to the board or executive committee, a project manager, a data specialist and an administrative role. Rarely are these roles full-time commitments and over the lifetime of a programme, you should expect team members’ roles to evolve with the maturity of your programme. A key role is the project manager who often may feel like a process engineer at the start of a programme, but who soon become a project champion and advocate for project success.
4. Demonstrate the Return on Investment (ROI)
There are many ways to demonstrate ROI. In many cases ROI can be split into either soft or hard ROI, helping you show its worth.
Soft ROI is generally linked to process and effect, for example completing the start phase or scaling up of a programme are obvious soft ROI, increasing response rates and market engagement are others. Each of these measures are important as each interview sends a message to clients that your firm wants their opinion. Reaching out to ‘difficult to contact clients’ may also be a useful measure if it has relevance to your business plan. Additionally the outcomes of internal training and internal & external communication arising from your programme all count as soft ROI. Often soft ROI does not have an easily measureable monetary benefit, but it can have a much wider impact on the marketplace, and your firm’s culture.
Hard ROI tends to have a direct link into commercial outcomes, for example the winning of new client accounts, the retention of lapsing clients and the increase in sales figures associated with involvement in the programme. Each of these has a measurable monetary value which can be reported.
Don't forget to count the up-sell opportunities and outcomes, and the issues successfully resolved. Each of these measures is providing actionable data that your firm can act on, and demonstrates that your client feedback programmes is working and that an ROI is being achieved.
5. Set and report your Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
The KPI that you will use to report the success of your programme will depend upon the stage that it is at, and your current business objectives, and often they will be linked to the ROI. KPI measures can also be soft or hard.
The most obvious KPI measures will be client satisfaction or recommendation rates (e.g. NPS) and for more advanced programmes it may be a combination of these measures plus key service delivery achievements (e.g. clear scoping) which are pre-cursors to high levels of client satisfaction or recommendation rates.
Internal benchmarking of your client feedback enables your firm to track performance and identify trends in the client insight data. Setting your client feedback programmes KPI’s will ensure you and your team know what you are measuring and what success will look like.
6. Offer options when offering interviews
To help facilitate the acceptance of a client feedback programme it is sensible to offer the most appropriate type of interview for clients, appropriate to their importance as a client or their growth potential.
In practice, this means offering different interviewing options to fee-earners. VIP clients may need a virtual or in-person interview, whereas a telephone interview is more cost-effective for many clients particularly if they are geographically dispersed. Web surveys are an obvious choice for lower-value transactional clients.
7. Welcome both positive and negative feedback
Most client feedback received in professional services is positive, reflecting the style of relationship based account management undertaken and the type of personal relationships with clients, but this can sometimes create a false sense of security if cherry-picking favoured clients to interview occurs, and bias towards favoured clients skews results.
Indifferent or negative feedback whilst not desired, is very important and provides opportunities to reflect, grow and learn. This style of feedback can be leveraged to strengthen areas of weakness in your firm’s service delivery model and help to mitigate risks.
If you are experiencing friction from members of staff when implementing your client feedback programme, this is an opportunity for you to demonstrate the programmes value to the firm. In summary, don’t feel disheartened if you receive negative feedback. Think of it as your opportunity to learn and help shape and improve the service your firm provides. Negatives can be used to demonstrate what can be achieved when an issue is addressed successfully and can be turned into a success story.
8. Success brings reward and recognition
Celebrate success. There is nothing better for a fee-earner than getting recognised for delivering good service, being recommended and securing their billing.
From a management perspective, there is a lot to be learnt from gamification... whilst one can celebrate success to inspire people, there is also an enormous amount to be gained from constructively responding and briefing people when things haven’t gone so well. We have heard of many instances of poor service delivery to a client (as reported via a client feedback interview) being completely turned around into an amazing success story.
Everyone in the firm has a part to play in helping to meet your clients’ needs.
9. Communication is key
Project communication comprises external communication to clients and internal communication – and whilst the message will be different, the themes will often be similar.
The key external message to clients is ‘thank you for your feedback, we are listening and taking action’, and this will be interwoven with various marketing messages.
Internal communication will report the project ROI, KPI and share the themes being reported by clients. This internal messaging requires both good analytical and communication skills – typically this is done by examining the evidence from key cohorts of clients and for teams within your firm, and extracting the key themes. These need to be communicated to the service delivery teams, often using a gap analysis technique (client expectation versus service delivery metrics).
10. Take Action
Client feedback, whether it is positive or negative, gives your firm the insights it needs to deliver outstanding service. Client insights have the potential to be a positive catalyst for change. It doesn’t always have to be big, just make sure that someone, somewhere, is taking action.
Please tell us about your top tips...