Clearly feedback management needs to be different for Strategic Accounts, but how? We recently asked this question to a Key Account Management discussion group – here are our thoughts and we’d love to hear yours.
Four key factors to keep in mind to get the most out of these valuable, but complex relationships.
We need to follow the individual and the ecosystem. There are many relationships at play in strategic accounts, so it’s important to choose a feedback management approach that recognises that each account is an ecosystem of individual relationships that evolves over time. A powerful way to do this is to ‘follow’ individuals over time, pulsing them quite regularly and linking up their feedback into relationship stories. That gets us thinking about Human-2-Human (H2H) rather than Business-2-Business (B2B). Understanding how these individual relationships are changing over time and why is the pivotal building block for understanding what is changing in a strategic account. If you’re not linking up individual feedback, you are in effect, taking shots in the dark.
Negatives always float to the surface – so go for an ‘attributed balanced voice view’. There’s no point taking anonymous feedback because there’s little evidence that anonymity gets better quality feedback – participants simply need to understand how it is going to be used when they are invited into a non-anonymous feedback program. Also, without a structured feedback mechanism to flush out positives, it’s easy to get an excessively negative view. It’s often the positives you don’t hear and there’s a lot you can do with them – stimulate referrals or write case studies for example. Finally, it’s imperative that your feedback participants get to say what they think in their own words. Slapping together a battery of questions that you are interested in, but doesn’t bear much relevance to them doesn’t cut the mustard. Make sure you are bringing the individual client voice into challenge your organisation with questions like – do we think the feedback is fair? Is this an expectations management problem or a performance issue? What are they not mentioning that we thought was important?
Change mapping the account is invaluable. It is then incredibly useful to change map an account (or territory or segment) to see what kind of journey each individual is going through over time. If you avoid the mistake of getting feedback that’s too shallow, and go deeper than you normally would in an account, you will start to identify negative pockets you might have only previously suspected. You’ll also be able to identify zones of ongoing support. You can then re-orientate your relationship managers towards how relationships are changing – those that are rising; falling; ticking time bombs; enduring angels etc. There’s so much more you can do with that knowledge. And, imagine the power of taking this back to your key client decision maker to show the real balanced picture…
This gives you a strong basis for taking action. You can then incorporate this change-based feedback into your routines. We have found these actions work particularly well:
- Mirror back to people what they said last time – that shows you are listening
- Get back really quickly to acknowledge the feedback – within 48 hours blows people’s socks off
- Take the results back to client decision makers so they can see the balanced picture
- Choose one thing to fix (or polish up) before the next pulse and communicate it really well so participants can see that things are happening. Don’t spread resources too thinly, otherwise any change won’t be visible.
Do you agree? What else have you found is unique to feedback in Strategic Accounts?
Join the conversation: comment below or join the discussion on Linkedin
Read more: in this recent conference presentation at SAMA (Strategic Account Management Association in the U.S.)