Last week I blogged about three common fears that hold professionals back when it comes to asking for client feedback. And I was pleased to see that my post generated a reasonable of discussion from people on the feedback front line.
So, as promised, here are 5 more common fears and how to allay them...
1. The client has too many service providers to bother with us.
Trust me, it’s unlikely that they’ll be getting bombarded by requests for client feedback from your competitors. By running your own program you’ll stand out. One General Counsel I heard speaking at a conference said that, of the 40 or so firms he uses, not one had ever asked him to participate in client feedback. He also said he’d take up any offer to give feedback immediately: he’d love the chance to let people know what he thinks (and most of it would be positive.) And again I say - let it be the client’s choice. The mere act of asking creates a positive impression of the firm. (Don’t just take my word for it, this academic study proves it.)
2. This whole thing will be a one-off waste of time.
Client feedback should never be a stand alone thing. Make yours part of an ongoing process of continuous improvement. And communicate the role client feedback will play in your business both to your staff and the clients you’re interviewing. Tell them you’ll be checking in every quarter to see how you’re progressing and let them see how their feedback is influencing what you do for them. Then they’ll be able to see how they’re helping shape your business.
3. The client (or my client relationship manager) will be sceptical about how we’ll use the feedback
Again, some clients will be worried that what they say in the strictest confidence will end up as a testimonial on your firm’s website. So, again, be upfront about how you’re going to use any responses they give. If you intend to use it for performance reviews, tell them. If the client gives a staff member a glowing reference, let them know it will be relayed back in-house. After all, giving a client the chance to influence someone’s career in a positive way also gives them real power and brings you both together. One very senior GC I heard speaking at a US conference said he’d relish the opportunity to have input in performance reviews.
If you do intend to use any of the information you receive in client feedback in your performance assessments, give partners at least six months notice of the process you'll follow and the clients you want to include.
4. We’ll put our staff offside because the clients will say bad things about them.
It’s natural for your people to worry that a disgruntled client will say something unfair about them and they won’t hear about it until their performance appraisal. So be upfront, and tell everyone how the feedback will be used. If you do want to use it in performance reviews, do it openly and fairly and give any staff members affected the chance to put their side of the story. Of course, not every client will be happy with all of your staff all the time - and sometimes that will be through no fault of anyone in your team. So, to counter this, let your staff also assess the client and you will have context for feedback comments or ratings.
5. Our client feedback program will catch our clients by surprise
Let clients know that you intend to ask for feedback and do this as early as you can in your relationship - preferably the moment you sign them up. I know some firms think this advance warning means they’ll make the relationship a little artificial because it puts everyone - especially your fee earners - on notice and makes them do everything they can to get a favourable review.
But where, exactly, is the problem with that?
I always say if it makes your people a little more client-focused that’s a very good thing indeed.
Client feedback is one of the most powerful business development tools in your arsenal. Don’t let your fears stand in the way of doing it - and doing it well.
And, if you need some help getting a client feedback program up and running in your firm, please get in touch.
This is part two of a two-part blog. Read the first part here.