3 minute read
I love TripAdvisor. Writing reviews and reading them. It is immensely useful as a medium if you are booking a hotel or restaurant and, one hopes (but sadly know to the contrary) you imagine it is also useful for the management of the venue, especially if it is negative.
So it occurred to me how valuable it would be to have an equivalent feedback system for clients to pass comment on their last “trip” with their legal advisor, accountant, ad agency, management or property consultant. So much less costly for professional advisory firms than undergoing time consuming annual client service reviews and other such cumbersome processes. What could be more beneficial than to audit the state of your current client relationships and be able to act on their suggestions for improving your service than an instant review of the client’s last interaction with your company? With hundreds of them accumulating over time in order to spot trends, look for gaps and identify real-time needs?
People are so attached to being right, and yet the tragedy is it could be so easy to find out how you’re wrong Ray Dalio, American businessman and investor
Instead, most advisory firms do it the other way around, starting with what products and services they can flog the client to hit a certain revenue target rather than what the client needs in the year to come. Every year, too many advisory firms reach into their bottom drawer, dust off last year’s client growth plan, add 5% and think “job done”. Pathetic.
In the era of instantaneous feedback, shouldn’t advisory firms have modernised that cumbersome, meaningless exercise? Why can’t professional advisory firms adopt the same customer feedback methodology as consumer facing businesses?
Learning from the experience of writing numerous TripAdvisor reviews and seeing the responses from those establishments I have reviewed, and having written a book on getting your existing clients to come back again and again and give you even more share of their business, I thought it might be timely to share the three big improvements you can make to your service to keep your clients loyal – so loyal, they award you new work on top of the stuff you are already doing on their behalf.
- Never take them for granted. The single biggest reason cited by client companies changing their professional advisors is that they felt they were being taken for granted. Tiny things like unreturned phone calls, constant changes of personnel working on their business and increasingly slovenly timekeeping add up to seething anger from clients. No one likes to be ignored or made to feel unloved. Instead, ask yourself “have I made a difference to my client’s business today?” If not, make one before you leave the office, otherwise, what’s the point of you? Always remember, if you are not making your client feel valued, one of your hungry competitors is out there doing exactly that right now.
- Invest 5% of your working week (on average that’s about 2 hours a week) just THINKING about your client’s business. This is not time to think about ongoing projects, it is to focus on those issues and problems that are coming down the track which will create headaches for your client. This way, you act as their radar – spotting things in time to take advantage of them rather than simply reacting to events. You won’t spot everything, but by being a vigilant friend, looking out for their interests, it will pay you both dividends.
- Three times a year present your updated company credentials to your most senior client. It is suicidal yet common practice to present credentials only to new business prospects. Where is the source of all your revenue? Your existing clients. And yet we tend to assume they know everything about our company and would be bored by our creds. Nothing could be less true. Our clients view of our company probably atrophied at the point they appointed you. Tell them new information about you. Tell them awards you have won. Tell them about new skill sets you have hired and practice areas and specialisms they have not used but which other clients have found to be invaluable. And then share your conclusions about all the thinking you have done, spending 5% of every week worrying away at the issues they need to think about. This is where you will get into good discussion and help the client identify things the need to do next. They will be grateful to you and they haven’t paid a bean for your thinking – a useful thing to remind them of when their procurement department start to put your fees under pressure.
A TripAdvisor for clients would let your clients tell you what you are doing well and where you need to improve. Even if you don’t set up a digital version of one, get regular direct feedback from your client. Don’t be like those ropey restaurants that ignore the bad reviews and slag off the customer, fobbing them off with aggressive defence or platitudinous insincere intentions.
Listen. Really listen. Listen well and you will improve your service and not only will your clients reward you with extra business, they will tell their friends in other client companies about you (they will!) and you will go from strength to strength.
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