Don’t let your clients’ experience be like a game of telephone

May 1, 2018

Do you remember playing the telephone game as a child? One friend would start with a sentence and the sentence would work its way around the circle. By the time it got to you it was a garbled circus of word entertainment. The point of the game was to illustrate how things are lost in translation. Communication, meaning, and intent all slightly, and sometimes completely, change from their original message.

This applies to business communication as well.

Even if your firm has created a focus on client experience (CX) with the goal of fueling growth through referrals, it is easy to miss opportunities to create client advocates if there is not a process to measure, monitor, improve and deliver on that CX brand promise.

Creating a Client Listening (VoC) program

When you engage your clients at regular intervals using a Client Listening (VoC) program, patterns emerge. Rather than trying to aggregate the anecdotal information gathered from various individuals at different points in the process (some of whom may ask stronger questions and possess more active listening skills), your VoC program allows clients to speak for themselves. Unlike more indirect communication, by capturing their preferences and comments, you will know why your clients responded the way they did.

The following story can be viewed as a fable that demonstrates the importance of having a VoC program.

A local ice cream store suddenly tries a new flavor, Banana Hand Sanitizer. They focus their excitement and energy on making and promoting this new flavor. Without realizing it, they allowed inventories of some of their more common flavors, like chocolate to run low. On a very hot weekend in July, they sold out of their new flavor Banana Hand Sanitizer. The owner was ecstatic. He had a winner with this new flavor. But did he? By only looking at one metric, sales of the new flavor, he overlooked the reality he ran out of chocolate on Friday evening. Was the new flavor really a hit or were the limited options influencing purchasing decisions? Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch, but I’m sure you get the idea. If he had a VoC program in place, he would have known that it was lack of variety that resulted in their purchase decision and they likely won’t be back again. Furthermore, he wouldn’t waste the time or money producing more of an unpopular flavor that had an accidental heyday. This business owner will find out his mistake eventually – but at what cost?

Over the past 10 years, Client Savvy has assisted firms in integrating a client listening program into their project delivery system to help achieve increased client loyalty and growth. Through this process, our clients have shared with us that getting team buy-in and maintaining enthusiasm for the program are two of their greatest challenges. They are challenges we help them overcome.

Getting Buy-in for your Client Listening Program

Our research using more than 500K data points, shows that the most actionable feedback your firm can receive will be ‘requested by’ and ‘delivered to’ the individual working with the client on the project. Why? Think about it. Who are you more likely to tell what is working well (or what is not) on a project, a third party or the person who can DO something with the information (e.g., their project manager)? Of course, it’s the PM, the person who can make something happen. That means that the first step to creating a strong client listening program is to get the buy-in of your project managers.

One of the challenges we see frequently when firms are struggling to get this buy-in is that the decision makers jump to the implementation and execution phases of using their VoC program before the groundwork has been set. We are all creatures of ‘what’s in it for me’ whether we like to think so or not. Therefore, before you roll out your program as something you expect everybody to participate in, get agreement from your team that they see the NEED for one. That seems so simple, but we all assume that what we believe is important will be perceived as equally important by the rest of our team. If you’re like me, you’ve been on the receiving end of realizing this is not true. I haven’t spoken to a project manager yet that didn’t feel they were stretched thin trying to take care of their clients. The phrase “I don’t have time to do one more thing” is almost a cliché among project managers. However, once they agree a problem exists and having a client listening program would solve it, this argument disappears.

Maintaining Enthusiasm for your Client Listening Program

You’ve gotten buy-in from your team to measure and monitor the impact of your firm’s client experience focus through your VoC program, and individuals are sending out requests for feedback and clients are responding. Project managers are seeing and acting on the feedback they receive from their clients to increase client loyalty through intentional positive client experiences. Although it is important for these individuals to be consistently listening to their clients, it is easy for the insights to become siloed without an intentional communication strategy to make sure that everyone who needs to know about these results is brought into the loop.

One strategy that can enable your team to share the insights across the entire company is to automatically include leadership in receiving the results. What if when a project manager sent a request for feedback to their client, the client’s response automatically went to the practice area or discipline leader (business development), the marketing manager, the business unit leader or branch manager, and the original project manager? Further, what if you could create reports that provided trending data and analysis on client responses and these reports were automatically delivered regularly to everyone who needs to know of these results. Wouldn’t this automated process give business development insights into what your firm’s existing clients think are strong differentiators? Wouldn’t branch managers be better able to compare client sentiment with profitability? Wouldn’t marketing have the positive client quotes to use on upcoming proposals?

Putting into place a process to measure and monitor the success of your client experience program is an important first step. However, making sure that all the individuals responsible for project delivery and firm growth know of the results allows your whole firm to use the information from existing satisfied clients (and potential challenges that the firm has overcome) to benefit the growth and profitability of the firm overall.

Are you willing to risk having incomplete, indirect, and garbled communication impact your firm’s growth and client loyalty strategy? Monitoring, measuring, and sharing client feedback can enhance, clarify, and strengthen your firm’s opportunities to increase loyalty with existing clients and differentiate your firm’s service delivery process to set your firm apart. Give our team a call at 1-866-433-7322 and create your Client Listening strategy today.

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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