Keys to Closing the Accountability Gap in Your Customer Feedback Loop

February 20, 2024

I've heard a lot of leaders question how to close the accountability gap when rolling out a customer experience (CX) program across an organization. Think about it—you do a lot of work to focus on the customer, identify new ways to create value, find new opportunities to delight them, and to deliver amazing, differentiated experiences. And then once those experiences have been designed, many firms struggle to roll them out because there are a lot of smart, independent professionals who are used to doing things the old way and don’t want to change. That accountability gap can be incredibly challenging to close.

Voice of Customer Programs Can Be a Struggle for Firms to Roll Out

As an example, many professional services firms struggle to roll out Voice of Customer programs because their customers’ journeys are long and complex. These engagements are not transactional the way a ticket might be with a managed service provider or checking in or checking out of a hotel. There are very clearly defined moments to send a feedback survey. So, in these situations where you're trying to gather feedback, you're often dependent on a project manager, an attorney, a relationship manager, an engineer—someone who has clarity and insight to the customer journey to let you know when, where, and who to get feedback from. That can be a tough accountability gap to close. It’s always best to consider the sources of truth that you already have. Start there and then build accountability from the top down, focusing on the largest, most strategic opportunities, building successes, sharing those success stories, and then over time iterating to gather or to include larger segments of your customer base.

Large Invoices Can be a Good Starting Point for Customer Feedback

One great example of this might be looking at your accounting system. If there's one thing that is a dependable constant in a professional services firm, it's getting invoices out the door. So take a hard look at the invoices. Every month, consider the top 10 or 20 invoices. Those should be good indicators that there's active work going on with the customer and that the customer is in the midst of a journey. If there are large invoices, usually a lot of work is happening, and they're usually big projects or big accounts that are worth paying attention to.

So, each month, take the list of the top 10 or 20 invoices and go to whoever is leading those accounts or projects and determine who on the customer side is involved so that you can request customer feedback. And if you can successfully do this for your top 10 or 20 customers, you're going to find you'll start identifying what the impediments and roadblocks are, and then you’ll be able to roll it out more effectively to the top 100 or even 1,000. You'll start to see where the gaps in knowledge and data lie. You may even find some additional processes or tools that need to be sustainably rolled out long-term more deeply across the organization. Here’s the good news: by just focusing on the top 10 or 20, you're only spending a small single-digit number of hours every month to invest into making this happen.

Sharing Success Stories Leads to Greater Firmwide Buy-in

Meanwhile, because you're tackling strategic, large projects or large accounts, you'll likely find success stories that are truly meaningful. And the odds of you finding a big impact early are going to be a lot higher. As you find those big impacts, share the successes across the organization, whether it's an accompanying newsletter or a dedicated memo that you send out. By sharing those success stories for the CX work you are doing, it leads to greater buy-in and excitement about CX across the firm. And it starts to turn the CX champions into heroes, creating pride of ownership that will help the team sustain the program. It will also cause others to ask the CX team questions about what worked, what didn't, how they were successful, and will start driving more adoption of CX and customer feedback across the organization.

Closing the Customer Feedback Loop and Acting On Feedback is Also a Struggle

Beyond just asking customers for feedback, a lot of firms also struggle with closing the feedback loop or acting on customer feedback. Once again, like any accountability gap issue you have, you must first find a system that you can rely on to provide data that you can trust. And then start with the most urgent, most important, or the biggest, and carve off just a section to drive accountability.

As an example, with our Client Feedback Tool platform, every feedback response that comes in can be tracked and followed-up with. Was there a follow-up to the feedback recorded? Consider running a report that shows the feedback received with scores below met expectations. These are at least some flashing red lights. The client had some concern, there are pain points, or at least some challenging feedback to address do something about. While it's always best practice to follow up with all the customer feedback you receive and close the feedback loop to show that you're listening, consider starting with this “urgent” segment, first.

Following Up on Challenging Customer Feedback and Identified Friction Points is Vital

Our research shows about one out of six clients responds by highlighting a friction point of some kind. Which means that a significant percent of customer feedback coming in needs urgent action. So run a report and talk to the internal stakeholders. Identify who owns these accounts and who's working directly with the customers. And these stakeholders should be asked if they are following up and closing the feedback loop, and then documenting (preferably in Client Feedback Tool or another CX management platform) that follow up has taken place. So as adoption starts to grow and as accountability starts to take root, you're going to find soon enough you don't need to chase people down to make sure the feedback loop is being closed because you have a system in place that tracks whether these gaps are being closed.

Accountability is Necessary in Every Aspect of Your Firm’s CX Strategy

As you move beyond voice of customer and closing feedback loops into service design, new process rollouts, or other objectives in your customer experience strategy, you're going to find the same things will happen. Identify where you have policies (this is the way we do it) and where you have guidance (this is just a best practice we suggest), and then determine the most important projects with the most important clients and start auditing at the top. But make sure you share the success stories, don't just inspect! When you inspect and you find that someone followed the new process, be sure to ask what worked, what was the impact, and how did that make a meaningful change somewhere either to the client or to the business? Then, share those success stories as broadly as you can across the firm to let everyone see how helpful these policies, procedures, and input are to CX, and to the bottom line of the business. This approach will help you close the accountability gaps in your Customer Feedback Loop and your overall CX process.

Ryan Suydam

Ryan Suydam co-founded Client Savvy in 2004, to help firms create fierce client loyalty by designing, implementing, and measuring client experiences. He has coached nearly 700 organizations and over 30,000 professionals on the skills required to be “client savvy.”

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