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From compliant to compelling: How Bird & Bird are elevating client listening

By Ben Kent

From compliant to compelling: How Bird & Bird are elevating client listening

By Ben Kent
Client listening
From compliant to compelling: How Bird & Bird are elevating client listening

As part of Meridian West’s Client Listening Maturity Index Benchmarking (CLIMB) campaign, Ben Kent, Founder Director at Meridian West, sat down with Giles Daubeney, Global Head of Client Service and Insight and Susie Greene, Senior Client Listening Manager, at Bird & Bird, to discuss how a shift of focus from client data to client insight is transforming listening at the firm.

In this article, we explore how a revitalised questionnaire and an innovative approach to leveraging technology is enabling client listening to become an ‘always-on, insight-driven function.  

A Shift from Compliance to Insight 

When Giles arrived at Bird & Bird, a solid infrastructure for client listening was already in place; the firm’s Global Client Survey, which had been running in some form since 2012, went out to over 2,000 clients bi-annually. Whilst the survey delivered some benefits, it was not without its challenges: “I saw first-hand how time-consuming [it] had become to administer, and how challenging it was to analyse large volumes of data and then play it back to the partners in a meaningful way”. 

Giles explains that whilst partner engagement with the survey was good, the quantitative data being collected didn’t “serve up insight” which made it really difficult for partners to then turn that into tangible actions, and to close the feedback loop with their clients. In conducting extensive market research, Giles and Susie quickly realised that client listening at Bird & Bird needed to become an “always-on, living, breathing capability” that blended quantitative data with qualitative client inputs. For Giles, the goal was to elevate client listening from a passive “client service improvement” exercise to “a proactive, insights led activity which helps Bird & Bird better understand and respond to what really matters to its clients”.  

Quality Questions Reveal Insights that Drive Value 

In 2023, Meridian West began working with Bird & Bird to refresh the firm’s global client survey, which was intended to sit alongside qualitative interviews as a key pillar to its new client listening programme. As Susie explains, the new question set aims to uncover insights about both “macro trends”, shaping the legal landscape, and “micro relationship factors” influencing client decision-making.  

By asking clients about what is top of their agenda, and where they are focusing their time, effort, and resources, Bird & Bird collects invaluable input from clients on big-picture, top-of-mind macro trends. Neatly packaging questions on share of wallet, or why a client has decreased its volume of work with the firm, allows the Bird & Bird team to quickly uncover insights about the true health of client relationships. Responding to these actionable insights in the right way can quickly have a significantly positive impact on the firm. As Susie comments, “the insights we collect from these questions are incredibly useful in the moment to those teams who are servicing the clients we’re speaking with.” 

Weaving questions on both macro trends and micro relationship factors into the questionnaire allows Bird & Bird to deliver more commercial value through client listening. For Giles, the insights from these interviews “allow the firm to look back, at how it’s performed, but also look forward to understand the future challenges and needs (both legal and non-legal) of the client”. 

Getting Granular: Harnessing Tech to Extract Compelling Insights 

Having developed a “really good product” in the new client survey, Susie explains that “a tech-led solution” was necessary to move towards achieving their ‘always-on’ client listening ambitions. According to Giles, Meridian West’s innovative approach to leveraging technology to consolidate client insights from both surveys and interviews has “been an absolute game changer” on two key fronts. The client listening dashboard has brought “all the disparate sources of intelligence, feedback and insight we collect, together in one place”, a “fundamental prerequisite for us when we decided who we were going to work with”.  

The technology has also allowed Susie and Giles to easily access information, “taking time and pressure away from having to generate multiple PowerPoint decks and creating charts… at the push of a button we can share the insight a Partner is interested in”. For Susie, the ability to share client insights in real-time moves client listening “one step closer to becoming a business-as-usual activity” at the firm, with Partners “seeing the value of these insights and gaining a greater level of confidence and trust in the whole process”.   

Future Ambitions: a Client-Centric Culture 

Looking ahead, Susie and Giles envisage a client-centric culture at Bird & Bird where client listening is a business-as-usual activity throughout the firm. Central to achieving this will be the use of real-time client insights to continue to drive Partner engagement. To make this a reality, there are plans to introduce ‘client listening champions’, “whose role it is to advocate locally… authentically speaking up about the benefits of engaging in client listening… how they've used it and how it's benefited their client service”.

Susie’s experience of delivering client listening programmes at the Big 4 stands Bird & Bird in good stead as they look to embed the key traits of successful listening at those market-leading firms. For Susie, the robust approach to client listening seen at those firms is typified by “good housekeeping and good discipline”, in which there is a “real focus on evidence-based decision-making”, with much of that evidence coming from a ‘living, breathing’ client listening programme.