There is a lot of mystery surrounding Client Journey Mapping and a corresponding reluctance to go out and ask clients about it. We have written about the fear of finding out in the context of client listening before. In this article, we explore how client interviews can be used to enhance the client journey – and why a few simple changes can make all the difference.
Client interviews – what are they?
Client interviews sound very grand don't they? But what do we mean by it? Client interviewing is just another word for getting feedback from clients. It could also be called client listening. However, regardless of whether we call it client listening or client interviews, there are two important things to note.
The first is that the conversation during client interviews should be framed in such a way that the client is clear you are embarking on an exercise to hear from them (and the professional is clear that they are going in to listen). This is important. You need to give them permission to share their thoughts without fear of repercussions – and the professional needs to be given permission to be in receiving (rather than advising) mode.
The second thing to note is that a client interview should be formal. A specific amount of time should be set aside to do the interview - it shouldn’t be a quick five minutes at the start of another engagement. Again, this helps set expectations, but also it demonstrates that it is important to you to get client feedback.
Client journey mapping – what do we mean?
Client journey mapping is an exercise where a firm seeks to understand and “map” the various touchpoints that they have with a client. A client touch point could be virtual – perhaps the way your client uses your website or client portal. It could be “in-real-life” – such as the moment they are greeted by your receptionist or the way they are treated in meetings. There will be many client touchpoints and every client journey map will look slightly different. You can read more about client journey mapping here.
Timing is everything with client interviews
Professional services firms are often guilty of adopting a “build-it-and-they-will-come” approach to marketing and product/service development. Often what is offered is a service that is sought because it is needed (support in litigation, audits, help to find a property) rather than because it is desired. That means that most professional services firms operate differently from other businesses in the creation of products. Design thinking is something integral to so many businesses outside of professional services – yet still much of an enigma within them. What does all of this mean?
Professional services firms don’t go out and get anywhere near enough data on what their clients think.
The timing of standard client feedback interviews tends to be post-matter, right at the end of the client journey. A standard retort when shortlisting client names for client listening programmes is “it is too soon”. For us, this is why timing is everything and it brings us to our first simple recommended change.
Client interview recommendation number 1: Conduct interviews throughout the client journey
Don’t wait until the end of a matter to interview a client. Think about asking clients for feedback as soon as they join you. What did they like? What made them choose you? Ask clients when you are in the middle of a project. How are you doing? What needs to change to make the experience with you even better?
Gathering information throughout the client’s journey will help increase the insights you have about all that you do, rather than being biased or seen through the lens of having been asked at the end. At the end of a journey memories fade and the impact of “the result” softens - or makes worse - individual moments that have occurred throughout. The truth is that there are ebbs and flows in any journey. What you need to capture to make a client journey map useful are those ebbs and flows.
How can you make the clients feel better when they are in the inevitable down periods? What could you do in the “up moments” to leverage those?
This brings us to our second simple change; mindsets. Now, changing mindsets isn’t simple – but conducting more regular client interviews – and acting on them – is a simple way to start to shift them.
Client interview recommendation number 2: Shift your mindset
When interviews are conducted infrequently the impact of what is heard is a lot bigger than if client interviews occur more regularly. The fear of getting negative feedback is one of the things that prevents many professionals from going out and asking clients for their opinions in the first place. However, more regular interviews mean more regular feedback. You might hear more negatives, but you will probably hear more positives too. However, the shift in mindset that is achieved by asking clients throughout the journey will be significant.
Why? Well, if you are hearing things as the client is on the journey you are able to make small adjustments to make the rest of their journey more pleasing. Using the client interview as a "pressure release valve", you give your clients the chance to share – little and often – the frustrations that they have. This reduces the impact of those niggles on them – and helps make the professionals see that negative feedback is something that can help a relationship, rather than provide a “score” at the end of one.