20th or 21st Century Business

Many executives and managers in financial services, insurance, professional services, private equity and so forth presume that they have to go to great lengths to stand out from the crowd with their clients. I am telling you that isn’t true. Look around at your colleagues, peers, business partners, advisers, competitors and clients behaviour. How many of them regularly exhibit attitudes and behaviour that are informed by 20th Century operating beliefs some fifteen years into the new millennium?

In another breathe they quite casually pull out the latest iPhone, Blackberry or tablet device. By any rational count they are hyper-connected. They simply don’t choose to make their clients or customers THEIR priority. They hide behind the “shared” belief that their lack of responsiveness is reasonable and appropriate.

Pick your favourite:

“Sorry I am travelling I will need to call you when I get back from my trip” (are you telling me you have no access by phone, voicemail or email? Are you really in Mongolia?)

“Can you speak to my Assistant she manages my calendar/diary” (is your Assistant in charge of your life?)

“I am in meetings today, I’ll get back to you” (do you really not have 15 minutes to respond via phone or email?)

“He/She is in a meeting, can you send them details via email” (are you seriously suggesting an alternative that demands both of you accept a significant delay and greater labour intensity to decipher an issue that could be solved in one three minute call today?)

There is a perception in many business advisory sectors that a powerful brand = greater responsiveness. I have recently conducted a straw pole of senior executives in Top 5 global businesses in insurance, private banking, executive search and advertising amongst other sectors suggesting a genuine potential client opportunity.

The least responsive sector quite humorously is the executive search business. The average response is 7.5 working days! Well done Odgers, Korn Ferry, Heidrich and Russell Reynolds, you are joint winners of the “Global Customer Disservice Award” (GCDA). There are a great many other global brands who would be appalled at the behaviour of their senior and key executives.

Next time your colleagues tell you “it is tough to compete with XXX, they have such a powerful brand”, caution them that clients buy from individuals who are highly responsive to their needs.

There is a high probability that you can establish a competitive advantage if you focus on customising your people and systems tightly to your customers’ self-interest. You don’t need to be selling some predictive analytic tool, overly complex technology or big data process. You need common sense and enthusiasm.

Copyright James Berkeley 2015. All Rights Reserved.

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