The HLB Mann Judd Australasian Association and its partner firms has been working with Client Culture for the past three years – conducting a formal net promoter score (NPS) program. The firms’ aggregate score exceeds 70, well above the average for the professional services industry.

Some of the key steps and components of the program include:

Measurement and accountability

HLB Mann Judd Australasian Association chairman, Tony Fittler, has said that professional service firms need to better accept client feedback if they are to institute consistent service across the breadth of their organisations.

In Client Culture’s experience service consistency is a key challenge faced by most professional services firms. A key first step in our playbook is to establish systems and processes for client experience measurement and service accountability. NPS, either on its own or in combination with other metrics, can deliver this well.

In addition to metrics, which help direct management attention and track changes over time, verbatim feedback from clients is crucial to the success of any feedback or Voice of Client program. Importantly, specific client feedback needs to be delivered to the respective divisions and partners that are responsible for the service and relationship with each client, in a timely way.

According to Mr Fittler, the NPS program 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.”

Follow-up: feedback should provoke a conversation

The NPS program has collected over 4000 individual pieces of feedback from clients 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.

A key insight was that clients expect more proactive engagement with their firm, and communication relating to changes affecting them. Additionally events and seminars are becoming increasingly important to clients.

Insights don’t just come from the metrics and verbatim client feedback though. It is vital that professionals use the feedback process as an opportunity to start a conversation about the service. How are we doing? What can we do better? This is a great opportunity to strengthen the connection between professional and client.

Make changes

According to Mr Fittler, “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.”

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.

Invest in people

In professional services, your people are your service. 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.