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3 common fears about client feedback (and how to overcome them)

The value of client feedback to professional services firms is well documented. Good client feedback can - and should - help inform - the way your firm goes about so many things, from the training it provides through to the pitches it gives and even potentially the way it charges.

And yet, so many professionals let their fears about client feedback hold them back from doing it properly. If you’re one of them, read on...

1. The fear: The client will want something we can’t give them.

The solution: This is probably the most common fear I hear: ‘what happens if the client wants skills or service we simply don’t have the capacity to provide’? The answer is to tell your clients that your feedback program is a promise to listen, not a promise to do as they say. Besides, if they do want something you don’t offer it gives you the opportunity to refer them to someone who can provide it to them. And that, in turn, gives you the chance to strengthen the relationship, complementing your existing services with someone who’s a friend, not a competitor.

That said, I’ve been conducting client feedback interviews for more than 20 years and I’ve yet to hear a client ask for something a firm couldn’t deliver.

2. The fear:  Those survey forms are tacky. (personally I never fill them in)

The solution: First, you’re a professional, not a hire car, a hotel or a telco. You have a very different type of relationship and your clients will view your requests for feedback differently too.  Many welcome the opportunity of providing feedback, especially where they see the benefit to them. Second, make sure you have a number of different ways to ask for feedback and match the method to the client contact. For some clients that may mean a face-to-face meeting or a conversation over the phone. Others may be happy with a hard copy or online form but here’s one response I got that suggests that’s not always the case:

“I really like this questionnaire – I could complete it quickly because it was only six questions. It was short, sharp and easy to fill out. And I prefer this discussion – to be able to talk to someone about feedback rather than spend time completing long surveys. I have this other online questionnaire from a law firm which is ridiculous and which I won’t be responding to”.
CEO, Insurance Organisation about the survey process.

3. The fear: Client feedback means imposing on a client’s time

The solution: Sure, you’re asking a busy client to eat into their day to talk about you. It all sounds a bit self-indulgent, doesn’t it? But, guess what? Most clients will appreciate the chance to have their opinion heard because good relationships are often effective relationships.  I’ve run many client feedback programs where the take-up rate from clients has been well over 95%. In fact, sometimes it has been 100%. So extend an invitation to take part and let the client choose whether or not they accept it. Don’t presume to speak for them, you may be surprised about how much your clients want to help. As one response lawyer put it:

“That was brilliant! I’m astounded with the information they gave. They (a major client) really want us to do well.  They want to help us.”  Senior Partner of a large firm immediately after completing a client feedback meeting on Friday 6 May 2016.

And give every client a choice about whether they want to have their interview over the phone or face-to-face... If someone rejects both it’s probably a signal about the state of the relationship. But at least you asked!

What clients are more concerned about is when you demonstrate you are not listening at all.

Want more?

So there you have it. Three of the more common barriers I hear about client feedback and what you can do to break them down. But guess what? There are plenty more. And I’ll be covering the next three shortly.