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Client Feedback: Taking the Guesswork out of New Business Development

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I’ve had the same conversation with three different professional services firm this summer so far – have we got our pricing right?  None of the individuals I had spoken to were confident about whether or to what degree pricing was a factor in winning or not winning pitches, or what role fees or costs were playing in client retention or repeat business.

Tellingly none of these firms have a formal feedback process for pitches (successes or failures) or exiting clients.

Now in fairness I do a lot of work in the private client market where formal pitching is rarer than it is in the corporate world. As the managing partner of Charles Russell Speechlys put it in Wealthbriefing last year: “Private wealth requires a certain approach, which is inconsistent with the procurement-led legal services market.”

But formal pitches and beauty parades are becoming more common, particularly where there is another adviser introducing that business be it another lawyer, an accountant, a private banker, trust consultant, financial adviser or similar (the referral networks in the private client world are complex to put it mildly).  Other professionals in my experience are generally extremely happy to give their views on firms that have or have not been successful in winning their client’s business.

In addition while there remains a reticence in many quarters about quizzing private clients on their likes and dislikes outside the confines of a formal client take-on process and/or within a very established relationship, I think that is changing.  In addition in my first-hand experience private clients are, if it is handled deftly and in the right context, more than happy to give their views. As one high net worth individual put it to me recently: “It is my money after all.”

Formal feedback not only provides intelligence which saves planning on anecdote (of which I have an absolute horror! ), it can also keep the conversation open as a failed pitch, a client exit or a failure to win repeat business need not be the end of the story.  Introducers have other clients and formal feedback is an indication you are trying to do everything to impress them and their clients.  In addition, clients who pick someone else may not always be impressed by the subsequent experience and may well revert to you later  – particularly if you were the firm that bothered to ask why it was they didn’t employ you in the first  place.

Implementing a formal client feedback programme at all stages of the client lifecycle will, over time, improve your return on investment of time and money if nothing else by taking some of the guess work out.  In addition to aiding with pricing quandaries, it will uncover if your story is muddled, if clients and advisers don’t see the benefit you can bring, whether your competitors are just more convincing presenters and so on. 

For FCA-regulated firms there is an additional conduct risk upside of being able to evidence why clients leave and what you are doing about it if problems are systemic and not just “c’est la vie”!

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