Many leaders now understand the concept of client experience or CX, the accumulation of experiences your client receives at every touch point through the engagement with your firm. CX is the newest buzz word in the professional industry landscape and is indeed part of innovation in law, accounting and engineering showcasing yet another example of continued change. The traditional landscape of professional services is evolving and introducing new benchmarks to rise to.

In fact innovation of service is becoming one of the most impactful differentiators for many practices. Much of what we read, and the results of research, support the premise that consistent and quality service delivery is key to lasting and profitable client engagement. This is 100% accurate. The delivery of an outstanding service at EVERY touch point is considered the pinnacle of an excellent client experience, which delivers important benefits to your employee engagement, client retention, market reputation and your firm’s bottom line.

We know that client’s expectations of service delivery are fluidly transferring across industries. What your clients experience from their dentist, or pizza vendor by way of communication, price certainty, empathy, personalisation and of course final product, they now expect from all services rendered. This has highlighted the need for professional services firms to ‘level up’ their service delivery from the point of enquiry through to delivery, and beyond.

This is perhaps a key opportunity to collaborate both internally and directly with key clients on what your client’s journey looks like, and how to improve that experience. This is CX journey mapping and collaborative experience design. Both support improvements to service delivery across multiple (and in some cases with ambitious firms), all touchpoints. This may include changes to enquiry call flow, scoping, needs analysis conversations, matter management, billing processes and of course seeking feedback. Each of these elements are valuable and important to support an increasingly outstanding and differentiated experience.

BUT what supports an organisational structure and ethos to deliver such an experience. Is it all top level service delivery, or is it more than ‘skin deep’?

It is essential for professional services firms to not only offer an authentic and quality service delivery time and again, but to encourage their teams to continue to ‘level up’ to the challenge of an ever rising service delivery bar. Not only to encourage their teams, but to establish the framework and firm structure to enable continuous improvement, adapting to the needs of clients seamlessly.

The answer is simple: Client Centric Culture.

There are a number of things to consider when reviewing the level of client centricity within your firm. Outlined in the graphic below are 11 elements which can support the development of a culture which demonstrates a true focus on clients at the core. I am calling this the CX Culture Mix.

1) Mission - Your mission sets the tone and focus of your orgainsation. This is where your client centricity must begin. 2) Values - Your values are those top level attributes which support your mission and determine firm behaviors. 3) Policies - Policies and processes underpin your culture by establishing a minimum standard by which you all agree to operate. 4) Leadership - Your leadership team sets the expectations and empowers your team to innovate around client centric service. 5) Technology - Technology solutions are implemented with the client in mind and not purely for firm benefit. 6) Recruitment - Your recruitment process will support identifying the traits which will establish your team as client centric. 7) Performance - You incorporate elements of a client  focus into each team member's performance review, including setting and reviewing client KPIs. 8) Sales - Sales is not about selling a service you have to a client, but solving a client challenge with a solution you can deliver. 9) Marketing and Brand - Your brand and marketing celebrates your clients as much as your firm. 10) Feedback - You not only seek feedback, but crave it. Your client feedback becomes a benchmark for your service delivery. 11) Service Promise - You have a clear minimum service standard which you continue to evolve based on client feedback.

Organisations which exhibit each of these hall marks of client centricity, will be better able to rise to meet the evolving needs of clients time and again. This type of cultural change involves looking deeper than the top level service delivery aspects of your client engagement. I truly believe this cultural change will become the new aspirational bar for firms looking to remain competitive in a highly crowded professional services market.

The answer of ‘client centric culture’ may be simple, however the implementation is not like flipping a switch. It takes commitment, investment and a considered approach to evolving your firm to ensure your focus on an outstanding experience for all clients is more than skin deep.

I am asked regularly where should firms start. I would love to say that approaching each element of the CX Culture Mix is essential to support improving your CX immediately. However, there are a myriad of aspects to your firm’s operations which do support an improved client experience as you grow into your cultural CX focus. My top pick to prioritise first on your CX journey is: Feedback. Ironically, one of the the last points on the graphic above.

Gathering feedback can be a daunting but essential process. It is only by asking clients, that you will know where to focus on improving. It is important to first consider the feedback process carefully, making sure it supports your end goal. Some questions to consider in advance:

Q: Who are you seeking feedback on/from and what is your purpose for seeking feedback – performance, relationship development, etc.?

As a start, I would recommend seeking feedback from either:

a) a large cross-section of your clients on general performance; or

b) deeper and more direct relationship feedback from a selection of your key clients.

Q: Consider what it is that you want to know from these clients?

Ask about how they score you on aspects such as reliability, expertise, communication, nice to do business with, focus on outcomes, billing process, fees etc. Ask what you could do to improve. Are you confident that the key issues are being uncovered, key successes are being recognised and that the trends are robust?

Q: What is the most effective tool for this – Survey via email or 1-2-1 meeting etc.?

There are several organisations and tools to support you with this. From www.surveymonkey.com to www.firmchecker.com. Both support relevant performance feedback and can suggest questions sets and support reporting. If you are considering relationship 1-2-1 meetings, make sure you take someone not related to the relationship to the meeting, or in deed send them instead. Independent feedback can be hard to achieve when the relationship partner is in the room. Either way, make sure you are prepared with a conversation plan. If the relationships are worth investing in, consider engaging a professional or consultant such as myself to conduct these meetings.

Q: How are you reporting on and who gets access to the data in your organisation?

Often the raw data can be confronting by itself without context or as an example of a trend. Manage the feedback centrally through one or two key stakeholders, often your COO or CMO. This will ensure that feedback delivery is controlled and not taken out of context either directly or with your clients.

Q: Does the information have the potential to drive action at a strategic and project/matter level and what will you do with this data?

Information for the sake of information is essentially useless. Unless you are able to drive change, then you have potentially wasted time for both you and your clients. For example, consider those aspects which you can more readily impact – i.e. can you move to fortnightly billing to support client transparency over fees, or can you improve communication throughout the matter. Perhaps your virtual meeting tools are not easy for your clients to access (Microsoft Teams or BlueJeans etc). Choose items which will make direct impact based on the feedback and commit to making changes.

Q: How will you communicate these changes?

It is important to demonstrate what you have heard and share this both internally to improve internal process and by re-engaging with clients to show them that you heard them.

Celebrate this feedback. All feedback is worth celebrating. Either celebrate the positive comments, or celebrate the opportunity to improve which you would not have had without first seeking your clients’ views.

From here, you have made a giant leap by establishing your focus for immediate service improvement. After-all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Just the execution of this single element highlights your firm’s willingness to focus on the experience of your clients and the beginning of establishing a client centric culture.

More Insights:

Over the coming weeks, I will delve deeper into each of the remaining 10 elements that support a client centric culture and support firms to demonstrate agility when responding to the growing focus on CX and beyond.

I would love to support your firm’s journey to developing a client centric culture! Get in touch to speak about where to start or if you would like a CX guide along the way.