Who Owns The Client

When corporate advisory firms think of “ownership of the client”, we largely think in terms of “economic” (key account holder) or “legal” (the firm and its’ shareholders) ownership. Yet we largely overlook the fact that the Client increasingly “owns” the relationship with our key people and our firm today. Shouldn’t we first increase the potential that the Client’s interests are strongly aligned with that of the firm and its’ key employees if we are to profitably grow?

In an age where clients have greater access to competitor information, an ability to check the cost of services and an ability to establish the degree of a firm’s credibility (word-of–mouth) in a very brief time period, firms need to forget “customer-centric” rubrics or allow onerous regulations to supercede this priority.  They need to think of themselves as a “customer-owned” business that provides tremendous value and huge levels of excitement. What does that firm look like and what must we ask ourselves:

  1. Who are our ideal customers, why is it attractive to have a relationship with them and them with us?
  2. Our value proposition needs to succinctly state why we are the first choice of our customers. “We are uniquely positioned to provide _________________ (our target client) with unprecedented levels of _________ (results).”
  3. How do we best attract them to our business and our business best attracts them to our firm. Which marketing tactics are most effective and efficient for which customers? (networking, speaking, referrals)
  4. How do we best communicate with them in a time (service standards) and a manner (in-person, phone, email) that best suits them?
  5. How do we leverage technology to enable a more impressive relationship and rapid responsiveness for our customers’ existing (strategy) and anticipated needs (global expansion)?
  6. How do we assemble our people and client groups to accelerate, not hinder both the quality and speed of the interaction (resolution of an issue and/or transfer of skills and knowledge) with our firm and their dealings?
  7. How do leverage our success with our customers to reinvest in our firm and provide even more impressive outcomes (referrals, testimonials, case studies, learning experiences, joint promotional opportunities)
  8. How do we attract better quality employees who want to provide our customers with even more impressive results? (use our clients as evangelists for attracting talent from our competitors)
  9. How do we know the interests of our clients, our firm and our people are increasingly aligned? (unsolicited referrals, unsolicited requests, strong anecdotal evidence, client feedback)
  10. How do we know that a “stronger bond” with our customers is financially beneficial to the organisation? (increased repeat business, shorter closing times, negligible acquisition costs, lower labour intensity, higher profit margins, improved image)

Decision-making in advisory firms today remains largely driven by a need to satisfy the demands of shareholders and key people. Yet there is no more impressive way to appeal to those individuals’ self-interest than first, keeping the clients’ happy. Recognising that over time the clients you are minded to keep happy are the relationships that you want to “own” in future, not the “past”. When you hear someone talking about how we need to be more client-centric, escape the empty gesture and ask yourself, how do we fair with the above questions and where do we need to take action now?

© James Berkeley 2014. All Rights Reserved.


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