Category Archives: Client feedback

Do you under-promise and over-deliver…or the reverse?

When we interview clients of professional services firms one of the themes that comes through, time and time again, is the need to understand, and manage, each client’s expectations on every piece of work you do for them.

We’ve put together 11 tips below to help you do just that. These are based on things that clients have told us they would like their professional advisers to do:

1. Find out your client’s expectations up front – including what do they want to achieve, what do they need from you, by when, in what format, what’s their budget, how frequently would they like meetings/updates and in what format?

2. Build in contingencies – when you set your timelines, wherever possible you should build in extra time to allow for ‘unforeseen circumstances’. However, if you are unable to deliver to original deadlines you must manage your client’s expectations early – ideally as soon as you become aware of the issue.

3. Provide a quote or cost estimate up front as well as a reverse brief setting out what you understand their needs and your role to be. Set out who their key point(s) of contact will be and who will be working on the file, including contact details.

4. Inform your own team of  the client’s expectations and what you expect from them. This includes other advisers you may be working alongside – agree how you will work as a team for the client’s benefit.

5. When issues arise, inform the client early. Always come to the client with solutions or options if problems have arisen – don’t make the problem solely the client’s issue.

6. If the scope of work changes, or unforeseen issues occur which have cost implications, let the client know early so that, together, you can agree a way forwards.

7. Let the client know of planned absences or dates/times when you will be unavailable well in advance and make sure they know who their point of contact will be in your absence.

8. Always try to deliver work early. However, if you are up against a deadline e.g. if the client wants the work next Wednesday, ensure you deliver it to them by midday on the Wednesday at the latest. Don’t leave it until 5pm as the client won’t realistically be able to do anything with it until the next day. You’d be amazed how many clients have mentioned similar scenarios in client reviews we’ve conducted and how frustrated this makes them feel.

9. Ensure you deliver what the client needs. For example if you’re a lawyer, does your client want an answer, a short opinion or a 20 pager? Deliver your advice in a format the client can use. This will depend on what they will do with your advice – if they need to present it to their Board deliver it as a Board report, if they need to get internal buy-in for something ensure your advice is structured persuasively considering the business and personal needs of those it needs to persuade.

10. Reflect your firm and personal values in everything you do.

11. Conduct face-to-face end of project/matter reviews after all large or strategically important work as well as a certain number for key clients or new clients. You can then keep doing the things that work well and tweak your service wherever necessary.

Do you agree with these? What other tips would you share?

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How well are you performing for your clients?

We asked 200 clients of professional services firms in New Zealand how they evaluate an adviser’s performance. The answer overwhelmingly came down to ‘was I well advised?’

Clients specifically evaluate:

  • The outcome/result they achieved
  • How effectively their adviser(s) worked with them and their extended team
  • The cost of the work versus the benefits derived from that work
  • The timeliness of the advice
  • The adviser’s understanding of their business, goals and values.

A number of people interviewed (typically in larger organisations) said they evaluate performance by going through a contestable process (typically an RFP) every few years.

In order to build client loyalty, it’s imperative that you understand how your clients will evaluate your performance on each j0b you do for them.

We recommend:

  • Finding out what your clients’ goals are for the project / matter,  and what they need from you, by when, at the outset.
  • Asking them how they will evaluate your performance up front.
  • Ensuring you manage their expectations throughout the process – if you can’t deliver something when you said you would, tell them at the earliest opportunity. If the scope of the work changes or costs look likely to escalate, tell them early so that you can work together to agree a way forwards.
  • Conducting an end of project review on all major projects as well as on a number of smaller ones.

Understanding what’s important to your clients on each matter/project is vital if you are to retain and grow your relationship with them.

By understanding and managing their expectations throughout the process, and by regularly benchmarking your performance, you will be able to tailor your approach and service to each client – building trust and loyalty.

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Are you the right horse for the course?

What do clients look for when hiring professional services advisers?

We’ve interviewed over 200 clients of professional services firms over the past 18 months and 83% of them say they look for the right person(s) for the job.

While the backing of a large firm is important when deals/projects are large or complex, this horses for courses approach to appointing advisers provides huge opportunities for smaller firms and individuals who can demonstrate they’re the right person for the job.

What do clients mean by ‘the right person for the job’?

  • Someone with the necessary technical competence/expertise: as evidenced by their past experience on similar projects, their reputation, their ability to influence decision makers, their knowledge and their level of professionalism.
  • Someone who is the right fit: at both a personal and team level, including the adviser’s ability to work well with the extended team.
  • Someone who understands, or shows they are willing to learn about, the client’s business: an adviser who will anticipate needs and protect the client’s interests.

So, how can you demonstrate you’re the right person for the job?

  • Position yourself as an expert in your field by sharing useful, relevant and timely content with your target audience(s) via a variety of channels both online and offline.
  • Provide evidence of your technical competence/expertise through the content you share as well as via case studies and client testimonials.
  • Seek to demonstrate how you work and your fit at both a personal and team level via client testimonials, testimonials from other practitioners who have worked with you on a deal/project, case studies, and your bio. When meeting with prospective clients in person, view this as an opportunity to demonstrate how you work.
  • Ask your clients and prospects questions to find out about their businesses, do your research and then share relevant content with them. Call them to let them know about things which may impact their business. Share case studies and testimonials of work you’ve done in their industry. If you don’t understand a prospective client’s business, ask pertinent questions, and then tell them how you will get up to speed.

Building your personal profile and evidencing your work, your working style, your understanding of (or willingness to understand) your clients’ businesses and the outcomes you’ve helped your clients achieve are key to demonstrating you are the right horse for the course.

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