How to consistently meet client expectations

2 August 2022

Let me start by stating a utopian position…

“It doesn’t matter who I work with from your company, the quality of service is always excellent.”

However, we all know that one thing that really frustrates clients, is receiving a variable service from the same organisation.


WHAT KIND OF EXPECTATIONS ARE YOU required TO FULFIL?

  • Technical service delivery – Clients as a minimum expect the technical solution to meet their brief without undue hiccups; this has become a given.
  • Human service delivery – This comprises cultural attitude and values, leadership, responsiveness and timeliness of communication, helpfulness, and added value.

It’s said that 15% of business success is related to technical skills and qualifications of people, and 85% from an ability to form relationships, communicate well and demonstrate good leadership. This is the strongest possible clue as to how you can differentiate your business from competitors, thus reducing your clients’ desire to switch to other companies who offer your service lines.


WHY DOES VARIABLE SERVICE happen?

Layers within a business

If you’re a contractor, the client must pass through several layers within the company from business development to estimating/bid team to delivery team. If you’re an architect, a senior partner may take the brief and pass this on to an associate team leader, who in turn passes it on to a project architect. Like a relay race, the baton is handed over to colleagues at each of these stages; if it’s dropped and the chain is broken, all the good work up to that point is wasted, so be mindful of these layers and the need to maintain the message.

Weak briefing processes which results in the client’s vision and expectations being diluted from the initial client interaction by a senior partner/director

Does your team understand the client’s vision (not just a project’s technical delivery standards)? The classic scenario Is when a colleague goes on annual leave and another member of the team becomes the custodian of the project/client relationship; there’s a potential big risk if this briefing process doesn’t include the intuitive expectations clients have beyond the project in hand. Team members need to be educated to ask questions that don’t just relate to the project in hand.

Lack of emotional intelligence capability

Do members of your team possess the ability to form relationships/understand the bigger picture, and not wear project blinkers?

Lack of experience/know-how

How comfortable do you feel in asking members of your team to do things they are not experienced enough to do? For example, if you have a client who expects their brief to be challenged in a positive way, is this an attribute your team member possesses?

Director/partner relationship reliance

Whilst a director or partner may have a fantastic relationship with the client and understand their expectations, how are other team members interacting with the client?

Lack of measurement of customer service

What kind of ‘sense checking’ are you doing to keep your service benchmarks where they need to be? I’ve undertaken some customer satisfaction surveys recently for a client in a short conversational style, rather than a rigid questionnaire (which clients often find they don’t have the time to complete). This is the kind of personal touch that a business owner/senior associate or manager can add to the client relationship.

Companies don’t utilise Customer Journey Plans

These provide a process for maintaining a focus on the client relationship and thus expectations.

Think project not client

Too often, people get so immersed in the project, they don’t consider other things that really matter to the client. These could include the client’s preferred method of communication, being kept informed of industry change, bringing opportunities to the table, or just the frequency of communication -TLC (Tender Loving Care).

Inadequate onboarding processes for new starters

Do you convey the expectations of the clients you serve from the outset? This is a particular challenge when you’re growing and recruiting in numbers, bringing different approaches/cultures to the table. Whilst you’ll have looked to align a cultural fit through your recruitment processes, this is the place to start in getting things embedded. However, you should also be looking to download knowledge from new recruits, who may have some great ideas that could be nurtured.

key Takeaways…

  1. Examine the quality of your briefing process through the different interfaces the client will experience with your company
  2. Increase Emotional Intelligence capability – one way to do this is through personality testing to identify traits and dynamics of your people
  3. Use Customer Journey Planning to keep a real focus on the customer relationship/meeting their expectations
  4. Think strategically about the client and their working environment, so you can add value beyond the project in-hand
  5. Examine your on-boarding processes for new members of the team
  6. Take regular ‘sense checking’ of your service delivery and use the feedback to educate your team members

The vote winner for clients is doing these things better than your competitors; you may have to re-define or create processes to do this ...so that may be a good place to start.

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