In this blog, Graham Le Roux, owner of Constantia Management Group examines how professional practices can deploy effective client relationship management strategies during downturns.
Loving your Clients or “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”
When times are tough the tough get going! True but what does it mean to us punters?
Firstly we notice that our competitors become aggressive chasing every sniff of a job and pushing the price down to try to win business. This is understandable and our inclination is to do the same. Perhaps a different path would be to focus on the fundamentals and to try to focus on meeting our client’s needs even more than we did in the times of plenty! When preparing myself for this story I found myself automatically chasing down operational issues, then as I did more research I realised there was an alternative – the client needs focus. As with my last blog on “how to eat an elephant” we need to consider two approaches to having a successful client relationship in tough times.
• Which clients give you more ‘bang’ for the buck.
• Which clients are more valuable and more profitable.
• Which client retention strategies are you going to adopt.
• Which markets will be sustainable through tough times.
• Which products and services will be sustainable through the tough times.
• Clean out all archiving, especially Safe Custody packets – these can be a tremendous source of instructions when they get older and in need of updating.
Clearly these approaches are aimed at optimising effort and rationalising resources. The danger here is that client and market segmentation activities often have unintended consequences; you could “deselect” a client/market which becomes a market leader (a great example of this is the old digital watch story in which traditional watchmakers rejected the move to digital watches which allowed new producers to enter the time price market and secure massive market share) .
Clients need focus
• Develop a deep understanding of what your clients need in this environment.
• Eliminate everything they don’t need – your complaints register and any stories of dissatisfaction are pure gold.
• Turn client needs into service/product specifications.
• Segment your market – some customers may pay more.
• Try to make everything about your firm focus on delivering VALUE to the client.
• Measure client perception of satisfaction, value and loyalty.
• Work to get closer to your clients expectations by constantly modifying your processes
The difference between this approach and the Operational approach is that this approach focusses on the client whilst the Operational approach focusses on your processes.
Steps to improving client focus
Find out where you stand on client focus with:
1. Your Employees
2. Your Clients
3. Your Equity Holders
4. Your Suppliers
• Identify strategies and implement actions to close gaps in client focus in each of the above four groups.
• Align the strategies for each of the above four groups.
• Hunt in a pack by determining and communicating your firm’s new client focus.
Client focus Health Check
How would your employees rate your firm on these?
• I understand what my clients value.
• I understand what the firm‘s clients value.
• We actively try to find out what our clients dislike about our products and services.
• We use client input in product and service design.
• We use client feedback/complaints to improve our service.
• Our products and services are of value to our clients.
• Client feedback is a gift that we use to improve our products and services.
• Everything about our firm is focussed on providing what our clients value.
How would your clients rate your firm on these?
• This firm focusses on what we value.
• This firm provides products and services that we value.
• The employees of this firm are exceptional in providing products and services we value.
• We trust this firm and its employees.
• Employees of this firm go out of their way to please.
• We feel that this firm uses our input to improve products and services.
• This firm actively seeks what we don’t like about its products and services.
• This firm uses our feedback about what we don’t like to improve its products and services.
• This firm is always trying to find new ways to delight me.
• This firm creates value for me.
How would your equity holders rate your company on these?
• This firm is organised to provide what its customers value.
• This firm is steadily working to increase the value it provides to clients.
• The firm invests in providing value to its clients.
How would your suppliers rate your firm on these?
• This firm is our client. We work to provide products and services that are of value to it.
• The products and services we provide are of value to this firm.
• We are working with this firm to ensure that we understand more of their business so that we can provide what they require.
• We are working with this firm to ensure that our products and services continue to increase value to this firm.
• We are working with this firm to ensure that our products and services create less and less costs to this firm.
Use two dimensions in your client management strategies.
Focus on improving and aligning client focus – constantly and forever.
1. Quick health check.
2. Consider segmenting products and services.
3. Provide value.
4. Seek knowledge about client needs as well as client dislikes.
5. Align all employees and owners with the extreme client focus.
1. Consider operational and client focussed strategies.
2. Constantly review the outcomes of your new actions.
3. Be flexible and consider all options.
About The Blogger
Graham Le Roux is the owner of Constantia Management Group and has over 15 years of experience in law firm management. He was an Australian Awards evaluator for 10 years and has helped numerous firms achieve ISO certification. Graham is passionate about simplifying the overwhelming data bombarding managers of law firms and identifying key actions to improve Profitability, Cash Flow and Value.
Contact him on 0419235060 or at firstname.lastname@example.org