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Merging Operational and Experiential Data is the Future of Client Experience (CX) in Professional Services

The seatbelt sign turned off. The pilot mentioned that we’ve reached our cruising altitude. I thought to myself, ‘less than three hours away from being home with my wife and kids.’

The past three days had been a whirlwind — from being stuck at Dulles airport for 12 hours on Tuesday and missing the entire first day of the event (thanks, Delta), to absorbing a multitude of valuable perspectives and thinking about how they apply to our business.

A woman sitting across the aisle from me on my return flight pulled out a bulky company-issued laptop to fill out a ‘training report’ on the Qualtrics X4 summit we both attended along with more than 11,000 other experience management professionals.

I thought to myself, did she really want to attend the event? Was the training report something her company required for learning & development? The report struck me as incredibly formal.

After taking more than an hour to fill it out, she ordered a Blue Moon as a well deserved reward for a painful experience. Ironically, the entire event was literally referred to as the “experience management summit.” Hopefully this woman’s newfound knowledge of experience management can be used to improve the way her company collects this kind of feedback in the future.

The third and final day of the event was headlined with keynote speech from Oprah Winfrey. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been much of an Oprah fan, but I was mesmerized listening to her speak. She opened with a story about how approaching every action with intent and purpose lead her to a breakthrough in her career. That got me thinking…

What should be the intent of a professional service provider?

Many organizations would probably answer with, “to deliver exceptional value to our clients” or something along those lines.

But how do you know what your clients are really experiencing by working with a professional service provider? Is there a gap between what clients envisioned and their reality?

Closing the client experience (CX) gap can be an effective way to truly differentiate your firm and fuel your marketing engine. I’ll explain.

Mark Schaefer’s new book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins chronicles the marketing profession and how it has undergone two major consumer “rebellions” to date — one against lies and false claims early in the days of the marketing profession, and another against secrets and lack of transparency at the turn of the 21st century.

Mark believes there to be a third rebellion happening right now — the end of our ability to control the marketing narrative and the return of power to the buyer (or in our case, the client). He contends that the client is your marketing department because of the power of word-of-mouth referrals amplified today by social media.

The logic here is simple and time-tested. If your clients have a breakthrough experience working with your firm, it can tip the scale and turn your average clients into raving promoters of your brand.

Which begs the question: is a sub-optimal client experience in professional services playing a role in the decline of referrals over the past five years?

Can you truly claim to have a breakthrough CX program?

A perfect example of masterful CX was when Qualtrics’ CMO, Kylan Lundeen, handed out electric guitars as awards to a handful of exemplary clients of major brands like LL Bean and American Express for using the software to achieve breakthroughs within their organizations.

Maybe it’s because I’m currently in the market for a new electric guitar, but I was at the edge of my seat. I can only imagine the rush of adrenaline those individuals must have felt hearing their name and their story broadcasted to eleven-thousand other professionals. I’m willing to bet they will never forget that experience.

B2B CX is Different than B2C

I also had the pleasure of hearing Steve Walker speak on how B2B CX is different. He even structured his speech to be syndicated on his podcast. (Talk about tactical marketing excellence. I’ll be tuning in to the podcast to relive that experience.)

His session validated my thoughts on what a CX program in professional services would look like. The first step in a successful CX program is to map out the client’s journey and set up “listening posts” at critical milestones.

Here’s a clip from a recent webinar where Lee Frederiksen and I map out a high-level professional services buyer journey:

(You can watch the full webinar here)

It’s important to note that no two buyer journeys are alike. They are all unique experiences.

The Merging of O- and X- Data

Setting up listening posts at each stage of the buyer journey enables you to collect experiential (X) data to analyze in conjunction with operational (O) data like web visits, content downloads and form fills.

While surveys are a great way to collect X data, there are other alternatives as well. For instance, Qualtrics showcased breakthrough voice analytics technology — AI that can listen in on your phone conversations with prospects and clients and read the tone of their voice to tell you whether the conversation is going well or not. All of this can be done in real-time.

Post-sale, listening posts can be set up at key project milestones. Analyzing this data alongside of project data like schedule variance (SV) and cost performance index (CPI) will show where your clients experience emotional highs and lows, enabling you to proactively tune your service delivery and turn your clients into fanatics of your brand.

Then, once you understand the metrics that drive your client experience it’s important to select one key metric to tie to financial performance to prove ROI of your client experience program.

Conclusion

In order for professional services firms to survive this third marketing rebellion and to deliver a distinctive client experience, we must implement client-centric marketing actions. And instead of taking stabs in the dark, the most successful businesses today leverage the merger of O- and X- data to deliver a breakthrough client experience.

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John Tyreman John has a passion for market research, analytics and using data to drive decisions. After 5 years with Hinge, John has personally reviewed the perspectives of over 10,000 buyers and sellers of professional services, and has helped over 100 professional services organizations use data to influence brand and marketing strategies. Certified in MS Excel, John’s research is an essential part of Hinge’s work, used to solve client problems, identify trends, create content and establish industry benchmarks.

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