In this article we provide suggestions on how to make a client feedback programme effective in a larger organisation.
1. Choose your programme team carefully - Ensure your team responsible for the programme get the big picture. Commerciality is paramount. Pick a highly vocal and influential champion who can reconcile the needs of the client with those of the business. They also need tenacity to drive through the programme as well as subsequent initiatives.
2. Sponsorship from the top and direct linkage to strategic business priorities - Without sponsorship it’s tough. To secure it, initiate a pilot linked to the firm’s strategic imperatives, such as driving profitability through enhanced fee recovery or initiating a key client/customer programme. The contribution of the programme to achieving your firm/organisation’s strategic goals is clear and securing buy-in across your firm/organisation less of an obstacle.
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.
4. Set KPIs and report systematically throughout the firm - Benchmarking and tracking trends ensures a focus on what needs to be done and provide 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 clients as there is nothing new to hear’ or ‘the approach is inappropriate’. A programme has to have firm/organisation-wide coverage to be truly successful, so offer options that fit the business processes to which they will support. Offer different questionnaires to meet the specific needs of customer groups, or different interview methodologies.
6. Recognise and reward engagement as well as success - The objective is to drive future improvement, 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/customers say as widely as possible within your organisation. It’s not just the preserve of directors/managers/partners/shareholders/business executives and marketing; every member of staff has a role to play in better meeting client needs. There are ways to do this efficiently and sensitively - share results externally too. Advising clients/customers of your intention to gather their feedback is the most effective way to diffuse 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. Act on what you have learnt - This is most important of all. Client/customer 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/customer 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.