Last fall I attended the Secret Service Summit presented by The DiJulius Group and John DiJulius (author of Secret Service and What’s the Secret?). The Summit brought together an incredible group of speakers and brand experts sharing their lessons, tips, and strategies on building exceptional customer and client relationships, but what was most compelling about the initial Summit was the presence of two unexpected advocates of client service – an accounting firm (Price Waterhouse Coopers) and a law firm (Carter Mario). In listening to the presentations from Price Waterhouse and Carter Mario, it became clear that accountants and lawyers do “get it” when it comes to the power and importance of the client experience.
Vic Petri from Price Waterhouse was quick to acknowledge that Price Waterhouse initially thought that their business was different and that what mattered most was the quality of their services and their solutions, but they soon realized that they were too focused on their outcomes and they didn’t see what they were really missing – what their clients really wanted. While it was critical that Price Waterhouse provide the highest quality of accurate services and valuable solutions, they discovered that their clients actually wanted the following:
- · To have their business understood
- · To get help in being successful
- · To be easy to work with
- · To bring value beyond their services
- · To be their trusted advisor
Through a process of implementing and executing this paradigm shift toward client experience, Price Waterhouse shifted from an outcome focus to an experience focus.
As Vic Petri emphasized, Price Waterhouse had been “focused on solutions but we needed to shift our mindset,” and that mindset shift was the critical ingredient to moving the firm forward in a positive way. Keep in mind this was no small task considering that Price Waterhouse is a $15 billion business with over 150,000 employees, yet Price Waterhouse (in many ways a traditional professional service firm) found a way to not only shift the mindset to focus on their clients, but to begin executing on systems and processes within their business that were client-centric and which provided their clients with the experience that they wanted.
Similarly, Carter Mario emphasized that his Connecticut law firm had successfully executed on the one area of focus (client experience) that is ignored by most law firms. He started his presentation emphasizing that lawyers are at the far bottom of everyone’s perceptions about commitment to client service and client experience. He highlighted that many lawyers and law firms don’t focus on client experience because there’s a mistaken perception that clients only care about the quality of the legal advice and services, but Carter Mario has embraced the reality that clients want high quality legal services and to feel valued and important. Carter Mario has instilled a true client-centric culture in its firm, not only in thinking but in tangible actions and strategies.
Some of Carter Mario’s specific examples of enhancing the client experience include:
- · Internal “Drive Bys” – When a client is scheduled to be in the office on a particular day, one of the team members (often Carter Mario) is designated to stop by (a “drive by”) to say hello by name and welcome them to the firm. It’s a simple concept, but it provides an outstanding experience for the firm’s clients.
- · Return Phone Call “Promise” – All phone calls are returned the same business day, no matter what time the call comes in or the voicemail is left. If the firm fails to honor this promise, they will buy lunch for the caller. They even honored this promise for a voicemail that was left at 4:50 p.m. at the end of the business day.
These simple commitments to the client and the client experience have made Carter Mario a “go to” law firm in their market and has created for Carter Mario the ever sought after differentiator that every law firm desires.
In professional services it is often said that the “we’re different” mindset is the number one obstacle to achieving impactful and sustainable change. While quality professional services and advice is always a requirement, your clients are demanding much more from their professionals. Your clients expect to be understood, to be valued, and to be communicated with (early and often). As you explore ways to better connect with your current and future clients, remember that you and your clients are not that different … and the client experience will go a long way toward creating the valuable differentiation you need to achieve your firm’s objectives.
Jeff Nischwitz. Think Again Coaching: Relationship Building Expert