What professional services firms can learn about creating a client experience from the RWC2011

One of the really neat things that's happened in Auckland during the Rugby World Cup is that each suburb has adopted an overseas team in order to make them feel welcome. Shop fronts bear their flags and some kids dress in their colours. It's designed to make visitors feel welcome. While I've heard a few people criticize it (because we should just be supporting the All Blacks) I think it does reflect the genuine Kiwi spirit. I first travelled to New Zealand in 2000 and was blown away by how friendly people were (not the stilted 'I have to be friendly or I'll lose my job' kind of approach you see in some countries but a real warmth that ,I believe, defines New Zealanders). 

Initial teething issues with public transport aside, I think those who have come to support their teams will go away with a genuine, positive kiwi experience. 

What's this got to do with professional services marketing? 

I recently attended the APSMA conference in Sydney and one of the themes that came through the majority of presentations is that professionals and their firms will need to offer their clients a 'customised experience'. We've seen FMCG's do it for years with their 'be in to win this amazing experience' competitions, but how can professionals and professional services firms create a consistent client experience that defines them and/or their firm? 

Here are 6 ideas: 

  1. Leverage your network for the benefit of your clients. You might want to introduce clients to others who it would be useful for them to meet, or to organise a thought leadership roundtable on a particular issue. 
  2. Provide a consistent service – do what you say you are going to, when you say you will. If you can't meet a deadline or other things crop up that will affect what you have said, let the client know early. Manage their expectations. 
  3. Think about what you can do for your clients that they would really value. This will be different for every client but may involve providing them with an office they can use when they are in town, providing a secondee, offering a free clinic where they can come to discuss issues, or providing webinars/seminars on topical issues – the list is endless. 
  4. Look for ways to make the client's life easier and to put them in control. This may include going to their office or home rather than expecting them to come to you, or giving them access to online deal-rooms, and other resources they may find useful. 
  5. Consider offering a guarantee or some other incentive that demonstrates you have some skin in the game. For example, if you tightly scope work you may be able to guarantee that, if the client is not 100% satisfied they only pay what they think your advice is worth. I know a lot of people are reticent to give price-related guarantees but brainstorm whether there is a non-price related guarantee you can provide that would resonate with your clients and would work for you and your firm. For example, a copywriter I know gives a thumbs up guarantee that states that if a client isn't happy with the copy she writes, she will redraft it until they are. 
  6. Build a community around an issue of interest to your clients. For example, if you work in the resource management field you could look at developing a community around future Emissions Trading Scheme issues. 

I think there's a huge opportunity, beyond traditional CRM, for professionals and firms to create valuable client experiences, both on and off-line. What do you think? 

What good examples of experiences have you seen professional services firms offering? 

What other ideas do you have to create customised experiences for clients?