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Easy to do business with?

There is a management adage that “businesses that do well tend to be businesses that are easy to do business with”.  Looked at from a client experience management perspective, it could be easy to believe that many firms adopt attitudes, approaches, policies and procedures which have quite the opposite intent.

My strong view is that client strategy must sit at the heart of all strategy – without clients we simply don’t have a business.  What that means in practice is that any initiative must be stress-tested by looking at it through the eyes of the client.  By asking a small number of core questions, based around new client benefits and the building of sustainable competitive advantage, it is quickly possible to identify the overall cost-benefits of projects competing for limited resources and make the best possible prioritisation decisions.

Understanding the client experience can be achieved by looking in detail at the touch points with the firm.  Some of these will be physical, for example the accessibility of premises, the quality of the built environment or the efficiency of front-of-house services.  Others will centre on service delivery such as the ease with which lawyers can be contacted, responsiveness and clarity of communication.  Taken together this touch point analysis provides the management team with an accurate perspective on “how it feels to be a client”.

A number of firms have used mystery shopping techniques both to unearth issues and to provide real examples to partners and staff of how the client is treated by the firm.  Such approaches are very powerful in bringing home the reality and exposing often significant shortcomings in the firm’s service model.

It is all too common to find that systemic failures often underlie client experience shortcomings.  I don’t believe that work colleagues arrive in the office each day with the intent of delivering poor quality service and yet find themselves placed in position, by virtue of systems, processes or overload, where they are almost certain to fail.

It is also a truism that, for most firms, time would be better spent on focusing on the basics rather than searching for a “silver bullet” solution, for such things do not exist.  Doing the simple things well will deliver a step-change improvement.

In an increasingly competitive market, clients are more prepared to seek out value than ever before.  Value can mean simply the lowest price for certain types of work but in most instances price is only one factor.  Service delivery and client experience management are often determinant when choices between competing firms are made.

It is only by better understanding the client experience that we can hope to put in places plans to improve it.  From a strategic perspective, a structured approach to experience management provides an opportunity to differentiate the firm and creates an enduring source of competitive advantage.

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