Formalising client feedback driving cultural change

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MEDIA RELEASE. Professional service firms need to better accept client feedback if they are to institute consistent service across the breadth of their organisations, according to HLB Mann Judd Australasian Association chairman, Tony Fittler.

The HLB Mann Judd Australasian Association and its partner firms has been conducting a formal net promoter score (NPS) program through Melbourne-based consultancy, Client Culture, for the past three years, which directs specific client feedback through to the respective divisions and partners. The firms’ aggregate score is 70, which well exceeds the average within the professional services industry.

According to Mr Fittler, the NPS provides a means for capturing client criticism that would otherwise go unspoken in a typical call or conversation with the client.

“Often it’s hard for people, especially those who are technically highly skilled and competent, to take on board feedback that relates to soft skills such as communication and responsiveness.

“NPS has been a very useful program, particularly around the importance of being proactive and not just waiting for clients to contact you. While clients are usually very positive, you also shouldn’t assume what clients are thinking and how satisfied they are; this tool allows for raw, honest and occasionally confronting feedback that can be difficult to hear but, ultimately, can only serve to benefit the quality of the service offering,” he said.

The NPS program has collected over 4000 individual pieces of feedback from clients to date, and provides real time dashboard reporting to the firms’ partners. The tracking tool presents the feedback as being promoter, neutral or detractor, with the latter signalling to the partner that specific client concerns should be addressed. Increasingly, clients are expecting more proactive engagement with their firm, as well as communication relating to events and seminars.

Client Culture director, Greg Tilse, has been administering the program for the Association, and said the methodology assists with not only managing the client relationship, but also helps inform the value and trust perception held by the client.

“For professional service firms, it’s the trust aspect that will determine whether the client will recommend the firm – and that’s the barometer for the effectiveness and efficiency of client service.

“The challenge for all professional service firms is being able to provide service consistency across the entire firm – through every division and even within divisions. HLB Mann Judd is putting systems in place to move towards consistent service excellence, and that’s where direct client feedback – which isn’t provided under anonymity – can bring about tangible improvements,” he said.

According to Mr Tilse, the NPS program routinely highlights the strong link between client and staff satisfaction levels across professional service firms.

“This does make the business case for investing in your people pretty clear.

“Partners who have the empathy and insight and people skills can create the right environment for staff, so any client feedback is valuable for partners who are receptive to actioning feedback. When it’s about raw numbers, it leads to a mindset shift and a cultural shift,” said Mr Tilse.