In the professional services industries lawyers, accountants, engineers and wealth advisers, have years invested in learning the specialised knowledge of their professions. Professionals are rightly very focused on mastery of their content.
At Client Culture, where we work with professionals to help them strengthen client relationships, we find increasingly that expertise, as important as it is, is really just the beginning.
Clients want more. Why? because the client-professional relationship, like all human relationships, is multi-dimensional. And to be a successful professional you need to operate with an awareness of all those dimensions. You have to take the blinkers off.
So what do clients want?
The guru on client relationships, David Maister, says that once a client has decided that you have the skills to do the job their focus shifts “…significantly. I am no longer asking, “Can you do it?” but rather, “Do I want to work with you?”
When Client Culture asks satisfied clients why they recommend certain firms the most common responses relate to the service and human connection factors that successful service businesses of all types exhibit – businesses like cafes, retail, hairdressers and personal trainers. They make the client or customer feel valued, they feel genuine connection, they experience great service.
Expertise typically appears in the top three most important factors for clients. Caring for clients, establishing a genuine client connection based on real empathy, often ranks higher. As does client service qualities such as responsiveness. Of course it depends on the nature of the firm and your clients.
Listening to clients
How do we make sure we are delivering what clients want more often? Obviously we need to encourage our people to have more conversations with clients about the service. But we also need more conversations aimed at better understanding the client’s goals and aspirations.
What is the larger strategy at play for the client and how could we help them get there? If we want to build a trusted adviser relationship with a client it’s vital we understand the big picture. You may then be able to offer additional services that align with the client’s goal. And if you don’t provide them, you probably have people in your network that do. Your ability to help a client doesn’t end where your list of services on your website stops.
The problem is that just asking your people to have more meaningful client conversations probably won’t have any impact. You need processes and systems to support richer client dialogue. In our view there are five key steps. If you want to learn more see our article on “Five key steps to master the client experience.”