Client feedback/listening exercises – tips for overcoming the 6 most common objections


One of the hardest things about initiating a client feedback/listening process within a professional services firm is getting buy-in from the lawyers, accountants or engineers themselves. 

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the following objections, I’d be a rich woman. Seeking client feedback about your performance is scary (and I know because I’ve done it in my business) and it’s only natural to object. However, over the past 8 years conducting literally thousands of reviews, only five people have said they don’t want to participate (that’s less than 1% of those asked). The fact is clients want to be heard. Reviews are about uncovering the good stuff as well as the not so good in order to leverage the positives and deal with the weaknesses.

I thought it would be good to set out 6 of the more common objections I've heard and some tips to overcome these: 

“We already know what our clients think about us” – the real objection is usually “I’m petrified about what they might say about me”. Mark Maraia suggests a great way to overcome this in his ‘Rainmaking made Simple’ book: Firstly find out whether the person does know what his/her clients think by asking them for the supporting evidence. If their statement turns out to be speculation and their real objection is fear then ask whether that partner’s clients are seeking customer feedback and whether they find that feedback useful. Get the partner to call one of his/her clients to ask and then follow up to find out what the client said to him/her. Use this information to build your case.

“I don’t want you to do this with my clients” – interview other clients of the firm first and then show the person how this feedback has helped other people in the firm. They soon come round especially when others tell them how useful the process is.

“My client is too busy. I don’t want to bother him/her/them” – ask when they are likely to be less busy and encourage the person to call their contact(s) to see if they would be happy to be interviewed in principle and, if so, when a good time might be.

“We don’t need to seek feedback as we’ve always had this client’s work and we’ll keep getting it” – explain that the review process in this instance is about understanding why this relationship is so strong, so that the firm can apply the learnings to other client relationships.

“This client relationship is too new” – explain that now is a good time to set the scene. If you seek feedback early then you can ensure you are servicing the client effectively right from the outset.

“This client only wants to deal with me” – explain that this process is about supporting the person in their role. Encourage them to ask the client if they would be happy to participate in the process with the understanding that if they say ‘no’, that’s fine.

A good technique to overcome typical objections is to tell war-stories. For example, I once conducted a client review for a law firm who thought their relationship with a particular client was great. When I spoke to the client they were in the process of moving their business elsewhere because they felt the firm I was working for wasn’t responsive enough, wasn’t putting their best team on the account, and didn’t care about them. The firm I was working for had no idea! By asking the right questions and going back to the client within a week of the review with a programme of what we had done and were in the process of putting in place to rectify the situation, we were able to save the client and over $2 million in fees. 

What other objections do you regularly hear? What are your top tips for overcoming these? 

What has worked well and, conversely, what's worked less well when conducting client listening/feedback initiatives within your firm? 

  • Promod Sharma | @mActuary

    Excuses abound and make entertaining reading, Kirsten.

    Clients may not participate if they feel there is an attempt to sell them something. I was recently asked to help a coach build a new program by identifying my business issues. Doesn’t that smell salesy? Respondents would likely be offered help … for a fee. Delete!

    If there’s ongoing dialogue with clients (and prospects) via social media, getting input may be easier and more regular.

    PS The biggest reason for not getting feedback is probably the bliss of ignorance. Those who don’t know there’s a problem have nothing to fix.

  • Kirsten Hodgson

    Very true Promod. I don’t think I would have participated in that research either!

    Agree that blissful ignorance is a key reason why people don’t get feedback along with fear – but it’s not just about looking for things to fix. It’s also about hearing the good stuff so that you can bring that through in your marketing materials and new business pitches etc.

  • John Gray, Law Firm Marketing

    Thanks Kirsten, some good useful tips there.

    What’s your view on whether the feedback (assuming its face to face) should be done with the contact partner present or not?

    I’ve done them both ways with some pros and cons to each approach.

    • Kirsten Hodgson

      Hi John,

      Like you I’ve found pros and cons. I often think clients expect an answer there and then when a contact partner or other partner is present and some partners do tend to leap in with answers rather than listening to the feedback. I’ve found the best approach is to have independent reviews, with the client team then following up and responding to the feedback in a timely manner. If they then have a separate session with clients focused on the client’s business, priorities and drivers then that usually works well.

      As with anything, different clients need a different approach – some are very open and happy to talk directly to the team they work with, while others value a sense of independence.

      What have you found?

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