Taking on New Clients
Most professional services firms have some form of start-up or 'on-boarding' process when they take on a new Client. Due to the nature of the work, there is usually an engagement contract stating the terms and conditions relating to the work. It is interesting to note that although firms celebrate new business internally, when it comes to the Client, the process is rather formal and can often feel somewhat cold to a Client.
However, when taking on a new Client, apart from the necessary contractual formalities, there are many opportunities for further, early engagement. For reasons of consistency, some firms centralise their Client take-on procedures. Taking on new Clients should provide a trigger for a firm to develop the relationship. For example, a 'Welcome Pack' can be given, or sent, to a new Client, explaining more about the firm, providing contacts and seeking feedback on issues of interest. Many firms set up a welcome meeting with a new Client, where they are introduced to the lead partner and where the firm's relationship management process can be outlined. Some firms have a welcome event where they invite recent new Clients to an informal gathering of partners from different practice areas. This has the benefit to Clients of exposing them to other Clients and partners, showing the scope of the firm's activities. The firm benefits by making new connections that may be useful later in the relationship.
The Client take-on process is one of the earliest opportunities to demonstrate Client care and show how the firm treats its Clients at the initial stage of the relationship. It is best practice to appoint an independent manager to oversee the relationship development and this person should be introduced to the Client at the earliest possible time. By involving someone in this role who is not directly involved with the work in hand, the firm can introduce another practice contact for the Client. This process benefits the Client by providing another sounding board that might be useful occasionally.
It is also important for the firm to seek feedback from new Qients at the early stages to see how both sides are faring as the work proceeds. This may uncover concerns from the Client that can be handled or opportunities that need follow-up.
GREAT CLIENT CARE
'Great Client care is like a good marriage; you need to keep the level of interest and intrigue up, be thinking about them when you are not around, pleasantly surprise them little and often. If you do not do these things do not be annoyed if your Clients start to flirt with other firms. React positively and you may avert a divorce!' - Anon. Accountants.
Client Care in Action Helps Client Retention
Care has explained the power and benefits of having clearly stated guidelines regarding the way that a professional services firm treats its Clients. Enlightened firms have invested considerably in providing excellent Client care. They do this by ensuring that their employees are trained to recognise and act upon opportunities to enhance the Client relationship, aside from the contracted work delivery. Some firms have created their own Client Care Policy that explains exactly what the firm's stance must be with all Clients. Its standards and messaging should align with the firm's brand promise. The Client Care Policy should ideally be published for employees and Client alike. This policy can incorporate a Client Charter. It can be featured on marketing communications, in website pages and in social media whenever the opportunity to publish it arises. The policy should be reviewed at least annually to ensure that it is refreshed. When Client care is well managed, it is part of everyone's DNA and happy Clients will tell their colleagues and business friends.
Client care can be a powerful differentiator. It involves developing the level of trust between firm and Client, the information provided and how it is communicated and the level of customisation of everything the firm does for the Client.
CLIENT MANAGEMENT REVIEW QUESTIONS
To what extent does your firm:
1. Have a published Client care policy?
2. Regularly discuss Client Touch Points?
3. Use Moments of Truth to discuss Client care behaviour?
4. Discuss the Client journey and experience internally?
5. Discuss the Client experience with its Clients?
6. Have a Client Charter?
7. Publish its Client Charter internally?
8. Display its Client Charter on its website?
9. Train all employees in the elements of Client care and service?
10. Involve Clients in developing your Client care approach?
These questions also form the basis of the Care section of your Client Management Profile™, which can be found in Chapter 15.
Client Management Model™