RISK MANAGEMENT | 09 FEBRUARY 2021

How to build iterative client
feedback loops that bring
you closer to your clients

Gedeon-Rossouw-Author

Gedeon Rossouw

Head of Client Care at Absa Corporate and Investment Banking

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In a constantly evolving world where client expectations are continually changing, businesses need to be more adaptable and stay closer to their clients.

Technology has blurred the lines between different industries, with clients now expecting the same experience from their bank, builder or hairdresser as they do when shopping online from grocery and clothing stores or using services such as Uber Eats.

In order to satisfy and exceed client expectations, companies must check in with clients consistently to understand what the core drivers of their expectations, and therefore satisfaction, are. This can be done by building a client experience measurement framework and model that enables a business to frequently assess how its clients are experiencing its offerings and gauge what is most important to them. The actionable insights will inform the action plan and focus the strategies based on real client feedback (as opposed to an internal view) and in doing so, create iterative improvement loops that drives accountability and real change.

A common mistake made by organizations is that they attempt to be everything to everyone at once. Whenever consulting teams on how to improve their client experience, we always assist them to take a more strategic and deliberate approach to their customer experience, ensuring that they are aligning their client experience work to their strategic objectives. It is imperative that key building blocks are established to create an iterative improvement journey for clients that are informed by the specific needs of a business’s client base. This will enable businesses to deliver its services in a way that connects with client’s best and pull them toward a brand and offering.

Developing a framework and model

It is imperative that business’s build a solid framework and model in which they can consume the data they collect. Many teams have access to an abundance of data, however, don’t know how to structure this data into a comprehendible and digestible set of insights that are actionable and that can drive accountability through measureable targets. It is important that business’s design models and frameworks that allows them to achieve critical requirements that will make the insights actionable:

  1. The framework needs to be consistent and comparable. All the different metrics need to act independently and interdependently in a way that can be measured in correlation to the different metrics and how they correlate with the overall experience. All metrics must tie back to the overall satisfaction or the client experiences and needs to be measured consistently (using the same scale and methodology) in order to be comparable.
  2. The framework needs a top down approach so that all metrics can contribute towards the overall experience in a way that a business can measure which metrics contribute to which elements of the experience, as well as the extent to which they contribute to the overall experience.
  3. The model needs to be flexible, adaptable and aligned with the strategy. As the world around us continues to change, client expectations change accordingly. As such, business’s need a bespoke model that is flexible and that can change as their strategic objectives change. This model needs to be led by key top-level metrics based on the business’s top strategic objectives. These top-level metrics will then answer the ‘how’ questions such as how well the business is performing and how satisfactory is the service. These are then further informed by specific questions that inform the “why” the top-line metric has shifted. For example: if a business wants to understand how clients experience a specific product, they first need to measure the overall satisfaction with that product, followed by a set of questions to understand what drives their satisfaction with that product. This will then indicate what element of the experience has the biggest impact and what elements are going well, as well as those that require improvement. This will highlight where focus should be placed, as well as what to build on and what should be maintained.

Determining what to measure

Many teams make the mistake of looking for a ‘silver bullet’ when solving for client satisfaction, looking towards various generic research tools.  These tools are great for measuring the generic experience relative to others who are also using the same metric however, it does not provide insights that are specific enough to be actionable. A golden rule is that if generic questions are asked to a client base, generic answers will be given. This is considerably difficult to translate into action projects and assign targets to responsible executives or departments in order to drive real change. There is an increasing trend across various industries locally and globally of moving away from generic models and moving towards using bespoke models aligned to companies’ unique strategic objectives.

If business’s want actionable insights, they need to be deliberate, strategic, and specific about the questions they ask their client base and how these questions are asked and ensure that these are aligned to the strategic objectives with the clear intention of measuring how well the strategic objectives resonate with clients, and how well the business is executing on the strategy in the eyes of its clients.

Gaining actionable insights

Choosing what to ask and how to ask it is critical in obtaining actionable insights. Every question a business asks a client should answer the question “who needs to do what”. If the answer to the question cannot indicate this, then it is of no value to the business or its client. For example, asking a client whether they would recommend a product to a family member doesn’t answer where change is needed in order to increase a client’s likelihood to recommend a business. In order to create actionable insights a business should ask the question differently, or follow up that question with a few other questions such as how would a client rate a business in specific client service areas such as having a single point of contact, and turn-around times. Feedback such as this will ensure that the various teams are held accountable and can set targets for improvement.

Furthermore, a balance of closed and open-ended questions is vital. Closed questions are great for comparing and measuring improvement on constructs that are important. Open questions are important to understand why clients rate the way they do when a business wants to find out more about what drives satisfaction. Having said this, it is important to strike a delicate balance between making the survey seamless, succinct and easy to complete for clients, giving the business a holistic yet detailed view of the overall experience with a view on each of the contributing factors, without boring or stretching a client too far in terms of effort or time, otherwise they won’t complete your survey again. A poor survey has a drop-off after around 4minutes, while a good survey with a good conversational consultant can last as long as 25 minutes with high levels of engagement. It is critical that a client feels the questions are relevant and that their feedback is going to make a difference.

Building a cadence of iterative change

The real value of client experience measurement starts to show when a business can start seeing iterative improvements in each measurement. Here consistency and rhythm are key. A business needs to measure what is important, act on it and then measure again to determine whether it worked and what areas to focus on next.

Frequency of measurement is also important. Business’s should only measure as frequently as they are able to identify and change areas of improvement. For example, if it takes a business 6 months to implement changes on, for example, product functionality, then it shouldn’t be asking clients about it regularly until it can implement the feedback received. Then be very clear on how these metrics will be used in the business and align them with individual and team objectives. For example, if a business wants to create bi-annual improvement iterations, ensure that it measures the experience twice a year and subsequently hold the responsible teams accountable to these scores twice a year. The magic then lies in iterative improvement loops. Set out a basis questionnaire based on the strategic objectives and measure these against the client base. Thereafter, clearly analyse which elements of the experience are most important to clients and require the most work from the business.

Choosing the right questions is often a trial and error exercise and it is imperative that a business tests which elements of the experience resonates most with its clients and contributes most to their overall satisfaction. In many instances’ clients won’t be able to articulate what is most important to them. As such, statistical correlation analysis needs to be relied upon to which of the various elements of their experience that was measured correlates most strongly with the overall satisfaction or likelihood to recommend for that matter.

The goal should be to consistently create value for your clients, because if a business fails to do this, they will cease to exist. Constantly staying close to clients and having a razor-sharp understanding of their evolving needs will always put a business one step ahead of its competition.

Gedeon-Rossouw-Author
Gedeon Rossouw

Head of Client Care at Absa Corporate and Investment Banking

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