At last, the final in my three-part series about common client service mistakes lawyers, accountants, engineers and other professionals sometimes make and my recommendations to avoid these.
Number 6. Over-reliance on a few key relationships within the client organisation
In order to minimize the risk of losing a client should your key contact(s) leave or be made redundant, you should identify all the key decision makers, influencers and gatekeepers within an organisation and build relationships with as many of them as possible. Look on the company’s website and see if there’s an organigram or do an Advanced Search on LinkedIn to identify who you do/do not know but need to. Setting up a simple matrix will help you to quickly identify the gaps and you can then seek to close these.
Number7. Lack of understanding of the client’s operating environment
The current economic climate means that a number of businesses are looking at reducing their costs and if not, they’re certainly focused on getting more value from their existing spend. It’s important to think about how you could help your clients in this context – for example are there more things they could do internally before getting you involved, are there different ways of pricing that might appeal more to your customers, or can you help them budget for your services by providing them with a timeline setting out what they will need to pay, when? This will be particularly useful for developers and other businesses that need to draw down funds in order to pay suppliers as they will be able to budget for these in advance.
Again, the only way to truly understand your clients’ operating environments is to ask them.
Number8. Wrong personal fit (relationships are key – people do business with people they like)
People tend to do business with people they like. Feedback we’ve received suggests that clients are increasingly hiring ‘horses for courses' so, provided an individual has the necessary level of expertise (and the right level of support behind them), the client is likely to hire someone for a piece of work based on their relationship with them. It therefore, is really important to ensure that you have the right people managing each client relationship and that you’re prepared to pull them off and replace them if a relationship’s not working.
We’ve helped a number of our clients to save major accounts simply by replacing the existing relationship person with a new one, more suited to that client. You can’t underestimate the importance of this. It’s an issue that can cost businesses millions of dollars. If you find out this is an issue for one of your clients then make the change quickly – you don't have to be hard on the person involved but you do need to be hard on the issue.
What's your view?
What other common mistakes do you see professionals making when servicing clients?