Normally, at this time of year professional services firms are evaluating and preparing their business plans ready for the year ahead, but with the pandemic affecting so many parts of our lives, planning for 2021 has become more challenging. So, how can you be confident you are developing an effective and actionable client listening and feedback plan during a period of uncertainty?
Planning in the dark
With many business objectives being reviewed and some revised on a monthly or quarterly basis due to the evolving economic and business landscape, many firms find themselves in the dark with their planning. However, when faced with an uncertain future, the insights you have gained from clients become so much more important and potentially invaluable. The content gathered provides the information you need to understand your clients evolving needs and their likely priorities for the immediate future. If you have this type of insight available to you, it is possible to evaluate your team and firm’s objectives against your clients’ priorities and spot the opportunities and actions which need to form the basis of your plan for the coming year.
Moving into the light
Client insights provide the evidence your firm needs to plan future client-facing business objectives and they become the light in the time of darkness.
When gathered regularly and adopted as a firm-wide best practice, a well-designed client feedback programme can provide your firm with the ability to segment your understanding of the different needs and demands of your clients by industry sector, service type, geography etc.
When you collect client feedback regularly, selected touchpoints in the client's journey can be better understood. Understanding the opinions and needs of cohorts of clients at each part of their journey provides client-facing and fee-earning teams with the information needed to optimise interactions and plan how best to deliver service which is best placed to retain future client work.
These same insights can also be used by marketing and BD teams to plan marketing campaigns which deliver maximum growth in the future. In the article 'Using client feedback to nurture prospects through the sales funnel', we talk about how these learnings can be used in nudge marketing to win more work from potential clients.
During times of change, carrying out regular feedback with carefully selected clients gives your firm the chance to remain agile and stay aligned with, or ahead of your clients’ needs. Consider reconceptualising existing feedback questionnaires to reflect the current situation, so that you can carry out your interviews in a more relevant manner; the feedback will also provide more insight on how recent events have impacted your clients.
When understandings are shared across the firm, client insight can enable more collaboration and cross-team working, ensuring everyone in your firm works towards the same business goals.
Planning for 2021
In the current climate, firms need to be ready to accelerate through the recovery phase by forecasting demand for services. When used alongside other forms of insights, such as repurchase rates and advocacy levels, client insight can be used as a way of estimating potential growth and demand for future services. This can assist your firm in realigning its service offerings to meet the changing needs of your clients.
Firms should, therefore, develop flexible plans to capture the insight needed. By building resilience into future service delivery models, firms are able to adapt and acquire the necessary capabilities. In refocusing the firm's collective efforts and evaluating key strategic priorities, firms can work from an agile plan that aligns business objectives with the changing priorities of clients.
If your firm does not currently undertake formal client feedback, we recommend setting up a programme. If you have a programme – now is the time to consolidate current client opinion and feed this into your firm’s business plan, and revisit the design of your questionnaires.
As we continue to face great uncertainty, using the insights gathered from clients is essential for business planning. The firms that make client feedback happen and use the insights gained will undoubtedly be the trailblazing firms when we resurface from the economic shocks of the pandemic.
Continue the discussion
To discuss how client feedback programmes can support your business planning activities please contact Andy Bond, Business Development Executive.