Professional Services Firms Learn To “Listen” To Clients And Employees To Drive Success

Michael Liss

Competing in a high-growth market is both an exciting opportunity and a source of surprises for midsize professional services firms. After spending years developing a deep bench of the best talent, firms acquire a reputation for delivering “superb” services at a competitive price. But as comparisons against competitors loom more extensively, clients are constantly evolving their criteria for a successful engagement.

How can professional services firms differentiate themselves in a way that resonates with existing and potential clients? The answer is acquiring, analyzing, and sharing the right data about clients to deliver a high-value, personalized experience. According to the IDC InfoBrief “Becoming a Best-Run Professional Services Company: How Growing Midsize Firms Use Technology and Innovation to Succeed,” high-performing (or best-run) midsize firms are leading the way in this area of experience management.

midsize companies know their customers

Source: Becoming a Best-Run Professional Services Company: How Growing Midsize Firms Use Technology and Innovation to Succeed,” IDC, sponsored by SAP, 2019.

The X’s and O’s of experience management

In the professional services industry, one faulty offering or unsuccessful engagement means much more than unhappy clients and loss of future revenue. It also negatively impacts workforce morale and degrades the firm’s relationships with its business partners.

Such a chain reaction of negativity and loss can be avoided when firms connect two distinctly separate types of data in their vast collection of information:

  • Operational data (O-data): Hard numbers – for example, costs, accounting, and sales – inform all lines of business across a wide variety of roles, as well as what is happening in business operations, the industry, and the global marketplace.
  • Experience data (X-data): The emotions, thoughts, and sentiments of clients, employees, and partners are captured to better understand why specific outcomes happen and predict how changing preferences may impact future business success.

All too often, professional services firms only rely on their operational data when evaluating their status with a client. However, this practice tells just part of the story.

By blending X-data and O-data, firms can create, monitor, and manage every experience. Doing so allows them to foster deep relationships between clients, employees, and partners to drive value to their bottom-line goals as well as the firm’s.

Relentless focus on experience is achievable – no matter your size

The logic behind the data philosophy of experience management is simple, clear, and proven. Every aspect of a professional services business is a powerful experiential force that influences how people engage, communicate, and remain loyal.

For example, an engagement may be tracking fine from a budget and revenue perspective. However, if the customer is not happy and feels that things are amiss, there is a strong chance this client will move on once the project is done, leaving any promise of future revenue at risk.

All firms, regardless of size, possess the ability to capture O-data – in fact, they do it every day when determining if engagements are on time, on budget, and profitable. However, to understand how experience impacts clients, employees, and partners, firms need to embed “listening posts” into their processes to acquire and analyze X-data to deepen insights and their call to action.

From clients to employees and partners, every area of the business is a source of operational and experiential insight that ensures firms act in ways that can lead to the right action every time. And before you know it, your clients are your fans, your employees are your evangelists, and your partners are your advocates.

Learn more

Read these resources to find out how best-run midsize professional services firms are focusing relentlessly on clients by evolving their financial models, addressing evolving risks, using nontraditional talent engagement models, and supporting digital sales and marketing strategies.


Michael Liss

About Michael Liss

Michael Liss is Vice President of Services Industries at SAP. He is responsible for managing a team of Industry Value Advisors across all Services Industry Sectors, including Professional Services, Media, Telco, Engineering & Construction, Hospitality, and Transportation and Logistics.