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Going above and beyond: how Grant Thornton’s innovative approach goes beyond Client Experience

By Bertie Heppel
Insights

Going above and beyond: how Grant Thornton’s innovative approach goes beyond Client Experience

By Bertie Heppel
Client listening
Going above and beyond: how Grant Thornton’s innovative approach goes beyond Client Experience

Following the release of Meridian West’s Client Listening Maturity Benchmark (CLIMB) report, we caught up with Shaendel Hallett, Head of Client Insights at Grant Thornton to discuss the firm’s transformative approach to client listening.

Whilst Grant Thronton have always invested in client listening, the legacy programme only delivered limited insights across the firm, and engagement was driven primarily by Partner targets. Shaendel was hired to revolutionise the programme, bringing her expertise from outside of professional services to design and implement a  more client focused approach. Shaendel and the team hoped this would spur an organisation-wide cultural shift that would elevate the importance and perceived value of client listening and ensure the client's voice was at the heart of Grant Thornton’s overall business strategy. This overhaul meant “doing things differently”, and challenging existent processes in order to achieve more meaningful engagement and wider strategic impact.

Below we will cover the how Shaendel and her team successfully developed client listening at Grant Thornton using technological platforms, effective storytelling, and an increasingly strategic and forward-looking approach, and how they are looking to innovate this further in 2024.

(Not) Beyond reach: Ensuring Participation in Client Listening Key to Communicating Value of the Program and Growing ‘Client Voice’.

One of the biggest initial challenges Shaendel faced was the limited internal engagement in the early stages of client listening cycle. Samples put forward for feedback were typically sparse and unreflective of the actual client base. Meridian West’s CLIMB survey reinforces how this is a key challenge cited by industry experts. Shaendel recognised that they needed change the cultural outlook on client-listening, from that of a tick-box exercise, to a strategic tool in order to drive greater engagement.

A huge part of this success was the development of the client voice portal. The is an interactive tool, designed by Shaendel and her team, that allows employees to easily provide clients for feedback, using advanced API connections with Qualtrics for easy sampling. The tool revolutionised this internal process resulting in not only bigger client pools (industry-wide high response rates of 35-40%) but has also positively driven engagement across the wider teams by actively exposing the value of collecting client insights. Looking forward, Shaendel hinted at more technological advancements in the aim to further integrate client feedback with other strands of organisational data, as well as increasing the number touchpoints with clients.

Beyond leadership: Ensuring Action at the Ground Level Can Help Create Real Change.

Shaendel knew that the current the programme lacked clear, actionable follow-up. Insights were reported at a high-level, with no clear strategic aim and reports were also often ignored or missed. Generally, while client insights were sporadically collected, there was no process of converting this into tangible impact. Hence, Shaendel set about implementing a more pragmatic approach whereby real insight was communicated to and followed up on by individuals ‘on the ground':

“It's the people on the ground that we need to talk to and get them to understand what we're trying to do”.

Shaendel expanded CX training beyond leadership to every person across the business, regardless of department or role in an aim to. This meant the capabilities of individuals to effectively follow-up with clients on feedback improved significantly. Shaendel additionally outlined the influence of ‘client voice champions’ in helping campaign this outreach. These are key figures, spanned across different levels of seniority, who help promote feedback within their service lines by sharing agendas, highlighting positive feedback on individuals, etc. This not only has created greater transparency around follow-up but helped build a culture of accountability.

Beyond reports: Live Dashboard and Storytelling Helps Bring Data to Life.

The programme had previously shared key results through internal reports, but these did not have the desired impact and were often not well-received or viewed internally. Shaendel recognised that investing in technology visualisation of data could lend weight to these insights and reached out to the Meridian West to help design and build an automated Qualtrics dashboard that displayed key metrics in real-time. The dashboard was well-received internally by stakeholders who could access results at their fingertips and delve into the data using filters, etc. This even sparked healthy competition, according to Shaendel.

CLIMB results indicate that having a platform, such as a dashboard, to measure and track key metrics is a must for global insights programmes to become more mature. However interestingly, a small proportion of firms are going beyond and integrating effective storytelling into internal communications. This is where Grant Thornton's really stands out. Shaendel outlined how their approach consists of using videos or talking heads, anecdotes, and case studies to tell stories of client experience. These can cover ‘success stories’ or even ‘turnaround stories’, which Shaendel admitted resonate even more strongly with teams. These have been incredibly impactful in not only sharing valuable client insights but motivating engagement, and also most importantly, improving client experience.

Beyond Satisfaction: Using Client Insights to Shape Future Growth

Shaendel and her team had clearly developed a more engaging and impactful client listening program, with 93% of clients surveyed saying the experience of Grant Thornton was ‘good’ or ‘great’. However, Shaendel's overarching objective was to put the client voice at the heart of the business, involving more than just tracking client satisfaction. She aimed to use the programme to inform the organisation's strategic goals. This included redesigning surveys to have a 70:30 question ratio, with at least 70% focused on future needs and opportunities. This helps generate valuable leads and supports proposals and bids. "The key was making the surveys strategic, not just polling for happiness" Shaendel explained. Additionally, advanced modelling techniques, including key driver analysis, have helped guide service lines on what specific areas to invest in, in order to create impactful changes.

Beyond 2023: a new targeted approach for Grant Thornton

In summary, a targeted and story-driven approach to client listening is helping Grant Thornton generate meaningful impact with client experience and beyond. Shaendel explained that getting more internal teams involved has been vital to the success of their initiative. By establishing straightforward and concrete procedures through technological innovations, coupled with leadership vocally advocating for a cultural realignment centred on client input, they have facilitated staff buy-in across the company. The result has not solely improved how clients perceive their interactions but has also begun influencing Grant Thornton's strategic expansions. Client preferences, discerned through their feedback, are increasingly situated at the core of the organisation.

Tip 1: Internal engagement
Driving engagement internally, beyond leadership, is key to creating a successful client listening process, using easier technological platforms can help gather participation and client voice champions can powerfully promote follow-up to the individuals and create accountability.
Tip 2: Dashboarding data
Dashboarding and other visual platforms are a must for programmes tracking key metric/KPIs, however, storytelling (anecdotes, case studies, etc) and targeted training helps create real change on the ground level.
Tip 3: Data modelling
Distributing carefully designed questionnaires and using advanced data modelling can create more strategic and commercial benefit from client listening.