It’s all about performance. Or is it? Many consultants are so focused on delivering a quality performance that they prioritise this over boosting client satisfaction. So aren’t they one and the same thing? Apparently not, according to a recent survey. Researchers found that while skills and delivery were important, the way clients felt about their relationships with consultants were stronger drivers of satisfaction. This is important when it comes to converting “non-stop” customers into loyal ones.
The study showed 6 factors as being the most important for maintaining a strong consultant-client relationship:
If your client knows he can count on you, he probably will count on you. Providing reliable service means delivering on time, within budget and according to your promises. Don’t overpromise and under-deliver. Pay attention to detail and be a perfectionist — that will reassure your client that you have his best interests at heart. Two-thirds of very satisfied clients believe that it’s worth staying with a consultant who puts their interests first.
#2: Accepting Feedback
Asking your clients what they really think (and giving them the chance to verbalize it) goes a long way towards understanding what’s working for them. Actively seek opinions and criticisms and accept them gracefully, even when they’re negative. Not only will your client appreciate having the chance to be honest and direct, but you’ll be able to spot and resolve problems before they get out of hand. The study showed that while performance remained the number one factor, 55% of very satisfied clients believed their consultants wanted to hear their feedback, compared with less than 10% of dissatisfied clients.
#3: Personal Warmth
People like to be liked, and clients are no exception. Even if you aren’t particularly enamoured of a client, you should be able to display personal warmth and make them feel special. 64% of satisfied clients felt their consultants exhibited this kind of warmth, which shows that it’s an important factor in their decision to remain with a consultant.
#4: Communication Skills
In these days of fast-paced business and information overload, it’s often difficult to keep up with what has been communicated to clients and what hasn’t. Social media also makes it easy for critical issues to “leak out” before you are ready, and the last thing you need is for your clients to find out about sensitive developments (read: market crashes, mergers and acquisitions and bankruptcies) from your competition, the press or Twitter. Use relationship management tools to schedule communications ahead of time so you aren’t caught napping.
#5: Ability to Listen
It’s not about what you know; it’s about what you hear. Most clients have their own ideas about how business works, and few like to be told they are wrong. Even if you are right and they aren’t, by listening actively you’ll be able to read between the lines and understand their needs. Even the ones they don’t necessarily verbalize! You’ll also be in the perfect position to pick up on potential new business, which reduces the need for lead generation.
#6: Client Centricity
Client centricity means putting the client first. Not just his business requirements and managing his projects successfully (and profitably) but really making an effort to understand what drives him personally and to factor that into your interactions.
A client who truly cares about his staff, for example, may be focused on profit only so far as it enables him to support his workers and not to the point that he has to cut employees. Even if it is necessary, by understanding his thinking you can try to reduce the impact if you know what’s important to him.
At the end of the day, your clients’ satisfaction is not just about your skills and competencies. It’s about good old human nature, the way you treat people and whether you’re a decent, genuine person.