In this article I focus on the importance on establishing a truly client centric Mission, fostering a more engaged audience, both internally and externally. This insight follows on from my original article outlining the importance of a client centric culture to support a firm’s true ability to respond to the evolving importance of experience to the sales process.

This is potentially not a significantly new concept in some respects. The concept being a client centric mission should to a degree dictate your firm values. These values are then demonstrated in a series of behaviours to do and those not to do. The expectation of consistent behaviours across your firm are then reflected in policies and procedures which each employees signs up to. Now interestingly, these elements mean very little, if leadership at all levels don’t live these values and behaviours daily. Further, if they don’t champion, celebrate and empower their teams to live by these values also.

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Here in lies a challenge for many firms, translating from what looks great on paper into real life results. So you see, it is not an entirely new concept that I have outlined. The lens I am proposing however is ensuring that through each of these layers, your client or customer is the central point of focus. In this article, I have outlined the importance of setting the top point with a client lens – your mission and firm purpose.

Your mission sets the tone and focus of your organisation and so, this is where your client centricity must begin. It may be important here to clarify the difference between purpose and mission. Your purpose is your reason for existence and your mission articulates what you do and for whom. I would challenge that both of these statements must work hand in hand and demonstrate aspiration that galvanises as well as the detail on the ‘what’ and ‘who’.

According to some very intelligent individuals, Christopher Bart and Mark Baetz, in their book Developing Mission Statements which Work, a good mission statement should “capture the hearts as well as the minds of managers, frontline employees, customers, and shareholders alike”. Harvard Business Review asserts however that “most are awash in jargon and marble mouthed pronouncements. Worse still, these gobbledy-gook statements are often forgotten by, misremembered, or flatly ignored by frontline employees”.

And a mission must capture both hearts and minds by highlighting that each employee is a part of a greater purpose than simply their own role or daily tasks. If you can capture the hearts and minds of your employees to strive towards an end goal they believe in, McKinsey espouses that engagement and discretionary effort increases.

A separate McKinsey study into organisations’ purpose and mission showed that 82% of respondents feel that it is important to have a purpose, and 72% believe that purpose should receive more weight than profit. i.e. “Purpose defines our core reason for being and the positive impact we have on the world. It shapes our strategy, inspires our people, engages our customers and community, steers choices at moments of truth, and is fully embedded in our culture.

Take a moment to consider your own purpose and mission statement. Do your own statements reflect a higher purpose, with a focus on the good your organisation will do for all those that they engage with? Or does your mission equate to making more money or servicing more clients in different jurisdictions? This is actually a result, and not focused on your clients or a higher purpose, but on your personal or internal goals. This is unlikely to engage your team or clients.

At a recent QUT Business Leaders Forum held in October 2021, the CEO of Suncorp GroupSteve Johnston spoke about his revelation as a leader of arguably one of the leading providers of general insurance, banking, life insurance and wealth management solutions in Australia and New Zealand. He noted that in an investor roadshow a number of years ago, he was asked why Suncorp Group existed. Steve admitted to being unprepared for this question and answered “to deliver value to shareholders”. Immediately on answering, Steve recalled being very aware that this was incorrect. He proposes that an organisation can not be led by the end result of value to shareholders in order to galvanise and engage either employees or customers. Rather he said, the organisation’s purpose must be focused on the impact on the end user and the environment in which the business operates.

I could not have agreed more and would suggest that now, Suncorp Group is one of the most powerful examples of an organisation who is clearly focused on client centricity as the foundation of their cultural development. This puts the customer at the core. Steve in fact said purpose comes first, followed by your people, then customers and then shareholders. I would disagree in part, but only in so much as challenging that the customer should be incorporated within the purpose. Why are all your people there but to serve the customer, and in doing that work support a broader positive impact. In which case, surely the customer should take primary focus. This is not to say that your people shouldn’t be prioritised as perhaps one of the most significant ‘assets’ to any organisation. However if their individual and collective focus is not on the customer, the purpose on serving the customer can loose clarity in my view.

SUNCORP GROUP MISSION:

Building futures and protecting what matters – the focus of our company for over 100 years. It is based on a strong conviction; we are building a sustainable and responsible financial services Group that will help our customers, people, shareholders and communities to prosper.

Dr Graham Kenny, a contributor to the Harvard Business Review advocates readers to consider: “What difference does our organisation intend to make in their lives?” This applies equally to your employees and clients or customers. “To inspire your staff to do good work for you, find a way to express the organisations impact on the lives of customers, clients, students, patients — whomever you’re trying to serve. Make them feel it.

Other global examples of client centric mission and purpose statements include:

REA Group – To make the property process simple, efficient, and stress free for people buying and selling a property.

ING – Empowering people to stay a step ahead in life and in business.

Kellogg food company – Nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive.

IAG – To help people manage risk and recover from the hardship of unexpected loss.

McDonald’s – To be our customers’ favourite place and way to eat and drink.

Further, MacDonald’s state that their worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which centre on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. They are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing their customers’ experience.

Apple – To bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services.

Facebook – To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

You can see a common thread here. Some of the world’s largest organisations setting a single statement to set the tone, focused on the end user. This gives each of their 000’s of employees – despite the variety of roles, client or customer engagement, jurisdiction etc. etc. – a single focus, and shared purpose. These organisations have other factors in common, they are client experience orientated. There is no doubt that McDonalds is one of the worlds most successful businesses with their customer and delivery of a quality consistent experience a core part of their offering. Why should law or accounting firms be any different?

In deed, considering that professional services clients don’t even walk away with any tangible goods (i.e. a Big Mac), why is it that these firms consider that they shouldn’t put the service element of their offering on a pedestal and aim to over-deliver. After all, that is often the most significant differentiator to their closest competitors.

So where do you start

According to two scholars, John Pearce and Fred David, a well conceived mission statement answers the following questions about an organisation:

1. Customers – Who are the enterprise’s present and future customers?

2. Products or services – What are the firm’s major products or services?

3. Markets – Where does the firm compete?

4. Technology – What is the firm’s basic technology?

5. Concern for survival, growth, and profitability – What is the firm’s attitude towards economic goals?

6. Philosophy – What are the basic beliefs, values, aspirations, and philosophical priorities of the firm?

7. Self-concepts – What are the firms’ major strengths and competitive advantages?

8. Concern for public image – What is the firm’s public image?

Further studies showed that successful organisations incorporated several of these elements into their mission statement. I would challenge that this is possibly over engineering the process. I would instead, suggest keeping to 3 core aspects:

1) What

2) for Who

3) Why

What you do, for who and why you all get out of bed. If you can clearly articulate this in a simple but emotive way, you are on the right track. I would however challenge you to do this with clients at the core. To set the tone that your organisation is aiming to impact or service the needs of your clients, thus supporting a client centric culture, put them first. Your team of employees should be excited about making a difference to these individuals, after all they are the reason your firm exists – surely.