BD tips and insights

How easy is it to do business with your professional services firm?

How is easy it for prospective clients to become clients of your professional services firm? Are you or your team inadvertently putting up barriers that are turning off prospective clients? How-does-your-professional-services-firm-rate-for-ease-of-doing-business
Firms often work long and hard on the marketing and positioning side of business development so the prospective lead or referred client is primed and “ready to go”. However, there will be instances where something lets you down, turns off that prospective client, and you won’t win the client.

A real scenario: the tangled net of home loans

I recently applied for a home loan with a bank (that shall remain nameless). The bank’s marketing materials emphasised an attractive low interest rate and a simple approval process, and our broker’s recommendation clinched it for us. So the bank’s marketing and sales did the job and enticed us into their net.

As soon as we were “on the hook”, what followed was a long, fraught and drawn out process for a simple property purchase. We re-sent the same pieces of information over and over, and continually found ourselves providing another bit of documentation they “forgot” to tell us about.

So many times in the last months I have bitten my tongue and thought: “your whole job involves paperwork but you’re so bad at it!”

Not the best way to start a relationship.

The easiest way would have been for the bank to provide us with a master checklist of the required documents and forms to be returned. And perhaps offer a helpful resource to explain the steps and timing for a typical home loan application process. It certainly would have saved many hours of back and forth and avoided many phone calls. (I suspect their call centre is flat out answering the same sorts of queries all of the time).

Why did we put up with it?

Well after all, we needed to get our hands on the money and didn’t want the bank off-side! And we’re the customer! But they made what should have been an exciting life step extra stressful.

However, there’s not always such a power imbalance or bargaining power at play in professional service relationships, particularly in segments when there are many better organised and easy to deal with alternatives to your firm. In many professional services firms, there is a prevailing culture that it is easier to mindlessly add complexity to a process than it is to overhaul the process and revise for simplicity.

Sure, it might seem easier to tack on another two pages to the 10 page professional agreement document than it is to integrate those new clauses. But better let the client know they should get another lawyer to help them wade through that 12 page agreement before signing!

Assess how easy your firm is to deal with from the client perspective

Stand in your client’s shoes and evaluate your firm against these criteria:

  • Is it uncomplicated?
  • Is it easy to relate to?
  • Is it easy to obtain preliminary information?
  • Is it easy to find the right person for the job?
  • Is it easy to engage your services?
  • Is it easy to raise a query or concern?
  • Is it easy to make a complaint?
  • Is it easy to talk to the partner in charge? To the managing partner? To others who make decisions?
  • Is it easy to pay your firm?
  • Is it easy to receive money from your firm?

Many professional services firms still run on authoritarian lines

I see a lot of partners feeling it is easier to mistrust their people than to entrust and empower them. In those firms, it’s easier to create a new rule, another procedure, form, or task than to simply and sensibly let team members apply already established overarching principles, conventions and protocols. Or actually contextualise the purpose and goal of a process.

The fastest way to simplify and minimise complexity in client interactions is to:

  • empower your people to draw on well-understood guiding principles (not petty rules)
  • recognise and reward appropriate exercise of autonomy and initiative.

My challenge to you: make your firm easier to do business with

I challenge professional services firms to think on this further and commit this week to taking unnecessary complexity out of one aspect of dealing with you.

Overhaul that professional services agreement, organise a simple script for your receptionist to refer to, create a welcome kit with a checklist of documents, streamline your costs and commercial arrangements so all professionals can refer and talk to them.

Make your firm easy to say “yes” to, and the reality of working with you a positive one for  clients, and enjoy winning and retaining more new business.

What now?

Take some complexity out of your firm with JMA’s simple framework for creating policies and procedures. Or if your processes are hindering your firm’s business development, talk to us about how we can help.

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