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PM Forum - Experience the difference

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PM Forum - Experience the difference

  1. 1. 12 pm | April 2017 marketing basics Experience the difference F ew businesses would consider opening up their doors to competitors. The award-winning bank First Direct has always had an unconventional reputation, though. As their former CEO Alan Hughes said, “We’re happy for anyone to come in and look at what we do.” In an increasingly commoditised market, their view is that “at the end of the day we offer exactly the same service as any other bank. But that gives you an advantage – you can differentiate through your people.” Market disruption – from rising client expectations, cost pressures, increased automation and more – is front of mind for many of us in professional services. So could a renewed focus on how the employee and client experiences work together be part of the solution? The evidence is promising. A Harvard Business Review study found that teams with above-average scores for client and employee engage- ment were 3.4 times more effective finan- cially in sales and revenue terms. Gallup, meanwhile, found that fully engaged clients deliver a 23% premium when looking at share of wallet, profitability and relationship growth. What’s key is helping leaders to recog- nise that getting the experience right is not just a ‘nice to have’ but a sustainable means of achieving business objectives. Begin with the end in mind Intuitively the logic for joining up makes sense: engaged employees delivering a distinctive experience will lead to greater client loyalty, which drives financial success. (For simplicity in this article, I take ‘employees’ to also include partners.) Ben Sutton believes that connecting the client and employee experiences drives differentiation. Our ability to improve the experience diminishes when strategy is developed in silos. By bringing together a range of disciplines – from marketing and BD to HR, internal communications, IT, finance and others – the business and financial case for change becomes stronger. It also reflects the reality of clients’ and employees’ end-to-end journeys. For instance a lukewarm welcome at recep- tion or an inaccurate bill can, in the client’s mind, detract from the best laid marketing plans. Amplify brand investment Consistency is among clients’ main prior- ities. Yet the nature of professional serv- ices firms, with independently-minded fee-earners, makes this challenging. An explicit link between the client and employee experiences increases the chances that the brand promise devel- oped centrally is what clients will see on the ground. By making a conscious effort to involve employees at all levels in devel- oping and delivering the brand promise, it reduces the potential of it being dismissed as ‘another marketing initia- tive’. Those on the front line have valuable (and free) insights which risk being over- looked if not captured systematically. For example: • What are the pain points and opportu- nities to innovate they’re hearing from clients? • What barriers do they see to delivering a great client experience and how could they be overcome? • How do we capture and act on informal feedback from the market? Ultimately, happy employees lead to happy customers – they’re two sides of the same coin. Professor Moira Clark, Henley Business School This article originally appeared in PM magazine. For further details go to www.pmforum.co.uk
  2. 2. pm | April 2017 13 marketing basics research can shed light on the drivers of client experience and financial perform- ance. Studying one professional services firm, the consultancy Engage found that employees felt most empowered when three factors were in place: they under- stood their role in providing excellent service; they knew that the right project teams were in place to deliver it; and they had the flexibility to do so. In teams with top scores on all dimen- sions, clients were 35% more likely to recommend the firm and 23% more likely to use its services in future. Linking client, people and financial data opens up a new source of insights. For example, are there certain leadership behaviours which resonate with team members and clients? The answer could help you to spot emerging talent. It becomes easier to share feedback which highlights the impact of people’s actions on positive client experiences. In turn, shouting about their successes helps to further reinforce the purpose and value of their work. Bring it all together Realistically, creating a joined-up experi- ence takes time. Major brands have taken years to get there. The starting point is to break down organisational silos and create a case for change. Buy-in from senior leaders is more likely if you can find early successes with a measurable payoff in areas like advo- cacy, loyalty, retention and financial performance. Journey maps can help here. Once all of the touchpoints from the client’s perspective are mapped, it’s easier to identify gaps, areas to streamline and points of differentiation. By doing the same for the employee journey, opportu- nities for action become clearer. As McKinsey puts it, “there’s no shortcut to creating emotional connec- tions with customers; it requires ensuring that every interaction is geared towards leaving them with a positive experience.” Firms seeking to stand out in profes- sional services need highly engaged people delivering an exceptional experi- ence. For those that seize the opportu- nity, the potential is huge. Just as we target advocates among the client base, who are the champions within the firm who will role model the behaviours we’re seeking and feed back to us? And when people get it right, it’s vital that the firm’s reward approach acknowl- edges this. In some cases, metrics such as billable hours and utilisation can be a disincentive to engage. Expand key account relationships While fee-earners may claim they have a grip on clients’ expectations, the evidence doesn’t always bear this out. When surveyed for the FT and the Managing Partners’ Forum, 81% of advisers rated themselves as good or excellent for proac- tivity while only 56% of clients agreed. Finding and tackling these perception gaps can make a material difference to account relationships. The process can be as simple as asking teams for feedback on how they feel about working on a partic- ular account at the same time as gath- ering clients’ views. Using account-level intelligence, it’s possible to confirm if the right individ- uals are on the team. More broadly it can indicate BD training needs and shape the profile of the key account manager of the future. Equally the reward model can be fine-tuned around the areas which clients value most. Gallup tracked the performance of 75 key accounts of a professional services firm. They found that while quality, service and responsiveness were impor- tant, the real differentiator came from teams which could measure the impact they were having on their clients’ success. Among those accounts scoring less than 4 out of 5 on engagement indicators, 60% subsequently declined by 20% or more in revenue terms. ‘Clients at our heart’ Almost without exception, the tone from the top of organisations includes a focus on client-centricity. But how prominent is this among the messages which new joiners encounter? Without collaboration between marketing, communications and HR teams (among others), there is a risk of the story being misaligned. The connection actually begins at the recruitment stage. The traits an employee needs to successfully deliver your client experience should be explicit in job speci- fications, adverts and the interviewing framework. Technical excellence alone may not be sustainable in a changing advisory environment. New joiners must be clear on expecta- tions – how should it feel to be a client of your firm and what is it like to be in their shoes? This comes from making the firm’s purpose and values tangible, rather than prescribing a set of rules. This is just as relevant for employees whose clients are internal, keen to under- stand how their contribution ultimately enables the external client experience. A well-designed orientation can be a cata- lyst; CEB found it increases performance by up to 15%. Commerciality should remain promi- nent as people rise through the ranks. There will be opportunities to bring the client viewpoint into learning and devel- opment. For instance, what are the essen- tial commercial skills and competencies required to progress to the next career level? One of the most powerful tools to keep commerciality on the agenda is feedback from clients and colleagues. Insight in three dimensions Client and employee feedback programmes are often designed sepa- rately. This makes it harder to draw meaningful connections – if indeed there’s an attempt to bring them together. Carefully crafted employee Engaged employees Source: Temkin Group Great client experience Loyal clients Strong financial results Lower employee turnover Prouder employees Investment in employees revonruteeyolpmerewoL s mkin Groupeemkin Group: T: TeSource eeyolpme degagnE xe rG duorP ecneirepx tneilctaer stneilc layoL s seeyolpmenitnemtsevnI eeyolpmered stluserlaicnanif gnortS Ben Sutton is part of the global client experience team at Grant Thornton. Follow him on Twitter @bsuttoncx

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