Give your clients a voice and you’ll never be surprised again.
“We don’t need a Voice of Client (VoC) program at our firm. Our project managers talk to our clients all the time.” This was what Bill, the CEO of a mid-sized engineering firm told me about nine months ago. Recently, this same individual shared, “In the last three months, we lost two important clients because we didn’t realize there was a problem. It was like a kick in the stomach. We didn’t see it coming at all.”
His first statement was true. His project managers DO talk to clients regularly. What he hadn’t accounted for was quality and the content of those conversations. When his team spoke with clients, they were typically focused on immediate project needs, change in scope, or project deliverables. Their conversations weren’t reflective, they were reactive. Bill’s project managers didn’t know what their clients were thinking on a deeper level for many reasons, but most simply it comes down to this: people rarely come right out with what they are thinking, especially if it can be perceived as critical, challenging, or negative. It’s human nature to couch our concerns, qualify our statements, and hedge our assertions.
Bill needed no additional evidence to convince him of the value of giving his clients a voice. The time spent on damage control to try and save these accounts, valued at over $1M each per year, only to lose them in the end has made a lasting impression. Bill learned the hard way. What about you?
How would a VoC program have prevented this situation?
Get the bigger picture
Clients are just like you and me. Some are more comfortable openly sharing their feelings about challenging situations than others. However, regardless of their comfort level, routinely asking for their feedback lets them share through scores or comments the information you need to hear. In a recent post, Kate Lucey shared a case study of a client who received what seemed like confusing feedback from one of their clients. The scores were all over the place and the comments were quite detailed (Read Go beyond the numbers using linguistic analysis). After completing her analysis, Kate brought the results to the firm and walked them through the clues the client had given them to what they were thinking and feeling. It was a lightbulb moment for many on their team.
When your conversations with clients are centered on gathering the information you must have to keep moving on a project, you are not receiving the whole picture of your client’s needs and perceptions. Including a VoC program as part of your service delivery gives clients the chance to share their personal sentiments regarding their relationship and interactions with you and your firm. In Bill’s situation, a VoC program that included this analysis could have provided early indicators of dissatisfaction or anxiety before they turned into a critical issue and a client walking out the door.
Gain confidence (and referrals) with Alerts
You can’t be everywhere at once. However, when you include a VoC plan in your service delivery with alerts set to notify you of high and low scores has many important benefits.
- Your clients know there will be key points during project delivery where they will be given a chance to comfortably give you an update on how things are going.
- You can trust you will never be surprised. You will know at regular intervals what your clients are thinking and feeling as they work with you and your firm.
- Besides giving you a well-rounded look at what your team does well and what can be improved for each of your clients, you can identify your promoters (NPS) and activate (Download Activating on Promoters) on them to increase referrals.
I need not tell you that all clients are not created equal. Every firm has their clients that are incredibly important to the ongoing success of their firm. Not only will your VoC program avoid negative surprises, identifying client promoters pays huge positive dividends. Research shows that clients that result from referrals are 18% more loyal and spend four times as much with your firm over the lifetime of the relationship. And, those referrals make other referrals and, well, you get the picture.
ROI versus Damage Control
The return on investment (ROI) using a Voice of Client program in lieu of doing damage control can be significant. A proper VoC program can all but eliminate damage control at its worst stages. Ask yourself:
- How much is your time worth and how much time do you spend (or have you spent) doing damage control in the past year?
- What else could you be to grow your firm and increase profitability that are more valuable (than spending time on damage control) and what is that worth?
- What is the value of saving one more client a year?
- What is the value of winning one more job a year?
- VoC programs reduce loss claims. If you could reduce your loss claims by 10% annually, what would that be worth?
Bill gets it now. He recognizes that if he’d had a VoC program, he would have understood what was going on with these key accounts long before they got so unhappy that he had to attempt damage control mode. He is also excited at the prospect of identifying the areas his firm is performing well and using that to his advantage in business development and through activating on his client promoters.
Whether or not you ask your clients how they feel about working with your firm – they have opinions and emotions. Why wouldn’t you want to know what they are?
Client Savvy’s Client Feedback tool has, on average, the following impact to our clients’ businesses: reduces wasted effort by 10%, saves 2 Clients, wins 3 more jobs, and reduces loss claims by 10%!!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk about how you can get started gathering client feedback with a simple Client Perception Study.