How to get those client listening sceptics on board…

Client listening projects usually begin with a conversation with my new client’s Marketing Director. They will have already bought into the concept and value of embarking on client listening activity, but their level of understanding may not be reflected across the whole business. And so, one of my jobs can involve helping the Marketing Director persuade their more sceptical colleagues of the value client listening can bring.

Understanding objections

It’s important to bear in mind that the hesitancy, doubts and pushback you might come up against are as valid as the enthusiasm you might feel for getting client listening under way. And of course, I would say that listening carefully and making an effort to understand any objections or doubts before addressing them is key!

Hesitancy may be driven by a number of factors – fear of uncovering less than glowing feedback from clients, unwillingness to allow someone external to speak to their clients, a belief that the firm’s clients are completely satisfied or would be too busy to participate or simply, an inability to fully appreciate the value of client listening.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the above and discover how you might go about getting those sceptics on board…And remember, there is an upside to engaging fully with this. If you can convert a sceptic into a true believer, you will have someone who is truly on your side.

Fear of constructive feedback

The saying goes, ‘all feedback is a gift’. Although it may feel uncomfortable receiving the sort of feedback that might, at best, be called ‘constructive’, if you respond rather than react to it – by accepting and dealing with it – your clients will recognise your integrity. In this way, a relationship which may have further declined if issues had gone unaddressed, will be given the chance to develop and flourish.

Sometimes my clients are already aware that there’s an issue bubbling just below the surface with an account. Having a neutral third party have a conversation with the client about it removes the discomfort that both sides might be feeling. The issue, once it’s faced, often turns out to not be as bad as it might have first appeared, and clients appreciate your bringing it to the fore and addressing it.

Not wanting someone outside of the organisation to speak to clients

There are two trains of thought here: ‘I don’t wany anyone talking to my clients’ (common in professional services settings), something that extends to other partners or members of the marketing team. This is a problem of company culture and addressing it would provide enough content for a whole separate ‘Happy Client’!

And then there is the ‘why should I trust you to speak to my clients?’ question. Client listening is above all else, a conversation. It’s not an interrogation. It should be an enjoyable experience and an opportunity to delve into those issues which a survey might only touch on at surface level. It’s all about qualitative insight, not asking your clients a load of quantitative questions with a plethora of options where it’s difficult to keep track of all the possible responses.

Feedback from my own clients demonstrates that their clients feel they derive a lot of benefit from talking with me. One interviewee called the managing partner of the law firm I was working with to thank him for investing in client listening and to say how much he enjoyed our conversation.

‘I already know my clients are happy’

That’s great! Happy clients are what you want but it’s still worth including them in a listening exercise. Client listening provides external validation of your thinking, enables you to gather quotes for your social media, website and new business pitches, and provides a rich seam of ideas for your marketing content. Loyal, long-standing clients are also in a great position to offer suggestions for potential ways of growing your business, and not just with them. They understand your business and those comments around, ‘If I were them, I would do xxxx’, can prove invaluable.

Demonstrating how you’re not taking their business for granted and speaking with satisfied clients also gives you the opportunity to ask if they’d be happy to become an advocate for your business.

‘I don’t see the value’

Client listening is a finely targeted, high-value marketing activity. It not only helps you retain existing clients but also to attract new ones. It brings financial value by uncovering opportunities to cross-sell and identifying advocates who will recommend you to others – an invaluable, highly relatable and cost-effective way of promoting your business.

Proactively seeking your clients’ views demonstrates integrity and shows you care about them far beyond their contribution to your bottom line. It affords a balanced view of how they are feeling. You may be awash with five-star reviews but falling into the complacency trap is something you should always be wary of, i.e. don’t think everything’s okay, just because you haven’t been told otherwise!

You’re never going to get absolutely everyone on board with client listening but starting with a pilot scheme, identifying some allies and a senior sponsor is a great way of demonstrating its value before committing to a wider exercise. Contact me to find out more or take a look at the Client Listening Pilot page on my website.

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