Superior Client Satisfaction – Delivered by Engagement through Collaboration
The success of every professional services firm is driven by the need to deliver consistently superior client experiences that result in high levels of client satisfaction.
High levels of client satisfaction lead to more dynamic growth rates, greater revenue, profitability, and business valuation, higher employee retention rates and performance and a much more positive business environment.
Professional services firms have undergone a series of major transformations over the past twenty years. In the 1980s, these firms were sales organizations and employees were hired to maximize sales volume and values. For those of us who were involved in business in the 1980s, you will recall some of the approaches we were taught ? overcoming objections, closing the sale, getting the next appointment, accelerating the sales cycle, and how to sell anything to anybody. Most approaches were based on the sales person being pitted against the client and the goal was to close the sale.
The past two decades saw a shift from selling to Collaborative Selling. Changing demographics and consumer attitudes has driven the change from focusing on the sale to focusing on the client’s wants, needs and preferences. Collaborative Selling is a new approach through which a professional utilizes a fact-finding approach to identify problems is followed by a presentation of solutions. Financial advisors present the best investment or wealth management solutions, insurance professionals present the best insurance or risk management solutions, accountants present the best taz planning solutions and estate attorneys present the best estate planning solutions.
The transition from selling to problem solving was really the first step in shifting the focus of the service professional from an adversarial approach to a client-centered approach. Today, some service professionals try to spend time understanding a clients wants, needs and preferences and then attempting to match problems with appropriate solutions. Some professionals are taking this to the next level ? true Collaboration.
Merriam-Websters Dictionary defines collaboration as to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor. True collaboration is established to lead to success for all parties involved. The three R’s of Collaboration – Transparency of Roles, Responsibilities and Rewards must be established and maintained in a collaborative team. Collaborators must completely understand the how to communicate with each other, the hard-wired tendencies, blind spots and learned behavior of fellow collaborators. Frequently professionals collaborate with multiple partners – business partners or spouses and the task becomes more complex. Each collaborator must understand how to best interact with each member of the collaborating team. Next, they must understand the goals, objectives, roles and responsibilities of each participating member.
A main driver of the shift to collaboration is changing demographics. Baby Boomers, who hold many of North Americas major jobs and a high percentage of wealth today, range in age from mid-forties to mid 60s in 2010. During the previous stages (Selling and Problem Solving), wealth was controlled by people born during the depression or during World War II. Baby Boomers are far more educated and knowledgeable than previous generations and have much different learned behavior. Research shows that significant financial events during a person’s childhood, up to the age of 15 years, will have significant lasting impacts on their financial attitudes regardless of the natural behavior. It is natural to assume that the first fifteen years was quite different for people born during a depression or war than those post war children. As a result of their early year experiences, earlier generations tend to abdicate responsibility to “knowledgeable” professionals whereas Baby Boomers tend to delegate and maintain control.
Collaboration is the Baby Boomers preferred style of interacting with professionals and enables both the client and the professional to be fully engaged together in the process. It is important for them to maintain control, work on their terms and to be completely understood by professionals they choose to work with. They are increasingly demanding that professionals collaborate with them to help them make good decisions.
This multi-step process enables professionals to achieve a deep understanding of their clients, wants, needs and preferences and to stage a client experience that will lead to mutual agreement on strategies and solutions. In this emerging model, The business goal isnt merely to delight customers; its to turn them into promoters ? customers who buy more and who actively refer friends and colleagues. (Fred Reichheld, The Ultimate Question ? Driving True Profits and True Growth)
I have been been assisting professional services firms to design winning client experiences and improve client satisfaction rates since 1998 and has teamed with leading international consulting firms to help professional services firms to make the transition to a more modern and effective Client Engagement Business Model delivered by Collaboration.
The Six Stage Client Satisfaction Process is called ENGAGE:
1. E – stablish the professional services team members communication preferences, natural behaviors and success strengths to improve personal and team performance.
2. N – ext open the lines of client communication. Identify client communication preferences to enable client/advisor collaboration and engagement.
3. G – ain agreement and buy-in of clients by discovery of goals, wants, needs and preference. Collaborate to establish a framework for a successful relationship.
4. A – ssess core life motivations and perspectives to establish a risk profile, goal-setting, results and interaction needs to determine how the client and professional can collaborate to make success and financial decisions.
5. G – enerate plans with the client to achieve the outcomes the client requires.
6. E – volve the program with clients as plans are implemented.
The result is the modern client is very satisfied, feels listened to and involved and in turn the professional service firms achieves their objectives of increased revenues and profitability and do so by a fully engaged collaboration process.