Happy Clients, Happy Firm: Managing Client Experience
Why should a prospect hire your firm? What separates you from your competitors? What makes your firm stand out in a crowded, competitive marketplace? Too often the answers to these questions are superfluous or self-serving. The real difference between one firm and another, is not what you think it is – it’s what the client thinks it is.
In service organizations, the difference often comes down to client experience. How would your clients rate their experience? Understanding the client experience is imperative to a firm’s success. Take a step back and evaluate your firm. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. How would you want to be treated? What processes would make your life easier if you were the client? Don’t take anything for granted. Examine these four aspects to ensure your firm is providing an exceptional client experience.
Seven quick seconds is all it takes to form a first impression. For a firm that offers professional services, it is vital that those first seven seconds send the right message. How long does it take for someone to answer the phone? Are clients or prospects put on hold and, if so, for how long? What kind of greeting do callers receive? Is the voice upbeat and friendly or rushed and abrupt? Have a friend call your office and record the greeting. Listen to the recording objectively and coach the individual to adjust their tone and tempo to create a welcoming first impression.
Examine the environment. Enter your office space as if you were a first time visitor. Look at the signage, door, furniture, paint color, magazines, etc. Are things outdated and dusty, or is the office environment clean, comfortable and organized? And, don’t forget the sense of smell. Does your office environment smell old and musty or fresh? Foster a welcoming and accepting environment.
Finally, consider the impression that prospects and clients receive from your firm’s culture. How your team interacts with each other is communicated both verbally and non-verbally to your prospects and clients. Do you have an energetic, helpful and communicative culture or is it closed and siloed?
Take a deeper look at the consistency of your firm’s brand and messaging. Think about how your brand is portrayed. What are your brand pillars (the keywords or phrases that describe your brand and market perception)? Are they carried throughout the client experience? Are your messages aligned across channels? Aligning core messages is key in communicating your brand effectively and consistently. Finally, look at the people, quality of facilities, service, and communication across your firm. Is it consistent? Your firm is a living entity, with multiple parts working as a single (hopefully cohesive) unit. Everyone in the firm must live the brand in a consistent, cohesive manner. If your employees are not living the brand, there can and will be detrimental ripple effects in delivery of service, as well as client experience. Inconsistency leads to market confusion and negatively impacts loyalty.
Think about expectations. What do your clients expect and what expectations does your team uphold? A mutual understanding of expectations needs to exist between the client and the firm. Be clear on processes, deliverables, costs, timelines, and communication prior to the project. Should changes arise during implementation, be open and honest, and redefine expectations immediately. From the beginning of the relationship, set clear, established expectations, touchpoints, and milestones, and then follow through.
One of the most important aspects of client experience is open and honest communication. Avoid confusion and dissatisfaction by keeping clients in the loop. Are your clients up-to-date or are they in the dark? Inform clients when something happens. Do not simply wait until the project is over to let a client know it is complete. Keep the client involved and updated. After all, the work you are doing is for the client, so it is critical that they are informed and satisfied. In fact, according to The Journal of Accountancy, one of the most frequent client complaints is not being kept informed. Firms must be responsive and communicate progress from beginning to end.
Re-evaluate the client experience with a fresh perspective and a critical eye. Are you making the right impression? Prospects consider your firm as an option based on services, experience, and skills. Clients stay with your firm because of the service experience. Set the right tone from the start, communicate clearly and demonstrate genuine appreciation for their business. It’s all about the experience. Remember, it’s often the smallest element, totally unrelated to your expertise or skillset that turns the experience from average to exceptional.
Ready to improve your clients’ experience? Give us a call.
Posted on Tue, March 1, 2016
by Christine Hollinden