Summer 2019 Issue
As improving customer experience becomes a key component of strategy, management consultants must embrace this transformation within their own practices to ensure that they can provide greater value and more relevance to their clients. A recent Gartner survey found that 89% of companies today expect to compete mostly on the basis of client experience, versus 36% four years ago. Given that a great experience is a determining factor in attracting, nurturing and retaining clients, it is a strategic imperative for management consultants to understand the ways to create and capture value by consistently providing great experiences for their clients.
Many people have the misconception that client experience applies only to companies in the service industry. This could not be any further from the truth. Client experience is ubiquitous and transcends all industries and professions, including management consulting. Now, more than ever, it is critical for all consultants and their consulting practices, regardless of the size of their operation, their field of expertise, selling either consulting products or services, to embrace client experience as a strategic priority.
Applying a well-defined, thoroughly tested client experience strategy and complementing it with a disciplined emphasis on execution will differentiate your consulting practice from others, and most importantly, it will consistently delight your clients, and lead to more referrals, and higher revenues.
Is Your Organization Ready to Make a Client Experience Transformation?
In my experience developing client experience strategies with organizations in a variety of industries, one common theme emerges that separates the successful ones from the rest: having a deliberate approach.
Ad hoc methods based on tribal knowledge that rely on previous ways of doing things are no longer adequate for today’s ever-changing client needs and expectations. Creating a clear, compelling, and inspiring vision for your ideal client experience and developing a mindset of change design and implementation are critical for developing a meaningful client experience strategy.
Organizations that are deliberate and purposeful with their client experience transformations are successful because they think about the people impacted by their decisions. The intent of their work is to improve the lives of the people providing and receiving their services, and they do so consistently and purposefully.
A Simple Three-Phase Client Experience Framework
Your client experience strategy does not have to be complicated, complex or chaotic. Ideally, it should be simple, easy to understand, and most importantly, consistently executed. There is no need to boil the ocean by unnecessarily making your client experience strategy an impossible task or making it a difficult endeavour.
Following this simple three-phase client experience framework that will improve the client experience for your consulting practice.
Phase 1: Understanding
Understanding how your consulting services align with your clients’ needs and expectations is an essential element of your client experience strategy. The objective of this phase is to leverage your value proposition to develop the right strategy to serve your clients effectively and consistently. Using a combination of client feedback and objective introspection of your capabilities, capacity and competency will help you: clearly define what your customers value, why you are serving your clients, how you will add value for them, and what you will do to improve their overall client experience.
Phase 2: Systemizing
Formalizing your client experience strategy is a crucial step to ensuring its success. Taking a systematic approach to mapping your clients’ journey, or points of contact with you and your consulting practice is essential because it helps you analyze your clients’ experience and will identify the critical touch points where you can better communicate with them to add value.
Furthermore, it can reveal ways to nurture clients with education on the knowledge and services that you provide, thus increasing the potential for future work or referrals. Clients want to feel special and valued, and personalizing the entire experience with you and your consulting practice, including how you communicate with them, and demonstrating value by infusing information that is relevant to them goes a long way in improving their client experience.
Phase 3: Executing
According to retired General Electric executive Lawrence Bossidy, “execution is the ability to mesh strategy with reality, align people with goals, and achieve the promised results.” The objective of this phase is to implement your client experience strategy successfully, every time.
Unlike other tactical approaches that are one-off, or intended to improve departmental silos in traditional functional areas of business like marketing, operations, or customer service, client experience takes a holistic view of your consulting practice and executes strategy based on the findings of the understanding and systemizing stages.
The Benefits of Implementing a Strategic Client Experience Strategy
Following this three-phase strategic approach for understanding, systemizing, and executing your consulting practice’s client experience has many benefits. These include: designing and delivering experiences from your clients’ perspective, consistently guiding the direction of your client experience efforts, improving decision making, mitigating risks, reinforcing accountability, and differentiating you and your consulting practice from others in the marketplace.
The sum of all your client experience efforts will result in more business for you and your consulting practice, greater profitability, and sustained relevance in a client-centric marketplace.
James Grieve is a Certified Management Consultant and Senior Business Advisor at Catalyst Strategies Consulting, a customer experience consulting firm in Kelowna that combines design, strategy and functional business expertise to create experiences that customers love. For over 20 years James' consulting career has been well balanced among: strategic planning, marketing strategy, project management, change management, B2B and B2C sales, customer experience design, and business development, with emphasis on building, nurturing, and sustaining client relationships.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org