Edited: April 2023
In today’s market of fierce buyer demands and endless competitive options for professional services, client service can no longer be overlooked as an important part of a company’s success. If your firm misses the opportunity to provide superior support to a client, there is another––or hundreds of other––eager and qualifying firms ready to take their business.
“Acquiring a new customer costs 5-25 times more than retaining an existing one.”
This is why client service needs to be viewed among a firm’s top priorities. It is more than a happy staff member answering the phone, it is an integral part of each project and the mindset of each employee within your firm. Client service is the way you deliver your work and interact with your clients, spanning far beyond the technical work you deliver.
All firms aspire to become their clients’ trusted advisor and go-to firm for additional business opportunities. Not to mention that word of mouth marketing in the form of referrals is one of the most powerful ways to organically grow your bottom line. In order to reach that level of client loyalty, a business needs to:
1. Distinguish uniqueness through client service to gain new clients
2. Retain clients through superior client service
How can you set your firm apart from your competition to gain and retain clients?
From the marketplace perspective, firms offering similar professional services may appear to be the same. Many firms providing similar services also claim to have exceptional technical skills, a wide breadth of talent, and impressive project lists. With this high-standard baseline, it is crucial for a firm to stand out by consistently providing high-quality client service and exceeding client expectations.
In fact, professional firms with established client service standards that set expectations for their staff (at all levels) can experience:
➢ 37% increase in revenue
➢ 31% increase in client retention
➢ Decrease in exposure to legal action and need for dispute remediation 2
It may seem obvious that providing consistently strong client service is the way to separate yourself from your competition, increase profits and decrease risk...yet most firms underestimate its importance. The number one reason a client either leaves a service provider, or fails to give as much work as possible, is still due to a failure of client service. Why? Where is the disconnect?
The attributes that impel you to enthusiastically use a provider again (or never go back to them) are the same attributes that drive your clients to––or from––your doors.
The main factor that causes disconnect in client expectations vs. the firm’s delivery is empathy. Empathy is the fuel that powers client service. It allows you to think as if you are the client. To effectively establish client service standards form an empathetic viewpoint, reaffirm what you already know from your personal experiences with client service and integrate these qualities into your team’s daily client service activities.
Does your firm place equal importance on the client service aspect of each project?
Clients deem client service equally as important as the technical work done. 3 Many firms are complacent when it comes to focusing on client service, especially if a high percentage of business is repeat business. It is easy for a firm to conclude that its client service is adequate if a majority of its contracts are renewed, but there are many underlying aspects to this scenario. Existing clients, even if offering repeat business, may not actually be enamored with the client service they receive. Although 80% of businesses believe they provide superior client service, only 8% of their customers agree. 4
Different views on what qualifies as superior client service lead to extreme disconnect between a business and its clients.
Since each project has its own unique technical challenges, as well as the unpredictability of people working together (personalities, emotions, work style, and so forth), there is not a one-size-fits-all client service strategy. However, there are four key components to premium client service that are applicable to all projects and essential in all client interactions. Notably, none of these techniques require additional capital because providing excellent client service is attitude intensive, not capital intensive.
CARE: the four components of successful client service
Communication Clearly establish communication expectations––when and how your client prefers to communicate–– before diving into the project. Some clients will choose email while others choose phone. For some projects weekly updates will suffice and others may need daily attention. Understanding your client’s communications needs as early as possible in the project life cycle will set appropriate expectations and help diminish costly miscommunications.
Accessibility Ensure each client knows the main point of contact if they have questions or concerns, and provide an additional point of contact in case he/she is unavailable. These contacts need to be readily accessible and reliable throughout all phases of the project.
Responsiveness Clients place a high value on responsiveness. In client interviews conducted by our team at Customer Follow Up, Inc., responsiveness is typically at the top of the list when describing the ways in which a Project Manager is doing an outstanding job. This means the client can count on getting a timely response (same day or within 24 hours) to their call or email about an issue. This provides confidence that the Project Manager has the client’s best interest in mind, can fix issues at hand, and ultimately lead the project to a successful completion.
Empathy As mentioned earlier in this article, empathy is a crucial part of understanding a client’s true needs. Draw upon your own experiences in receiving both great and poor client service, then challenge yourself––and your project team–– to exemplify the great qualities. The qualities should epitomize the type of service that will make a client feel heard, supported, respected and confident. Using the empathetic approach to increase your firm’s client service standards creates the type of service that clients will be eager to return to, and refer other potential clients to.
CARE is essential to every project.
Although technology changes at warp speed and impacts the way projects are completed, the human component of projects remains the same. Clients will always hold high expectations for their project needs, and expect those needs to be met expertly, professionally and compassionately.
Providing tremendous client service cannot always guarantee that a project will end well. But, laser focusing on client service is a proven way to increase chances of success and reduce risk, by identifying and resolving issues early in the project life cycle. Consider yourself (first and foremost) in the client service business and specializing in technical services. This will help projects run smoother, you will retain more happy clients, and your will expend fewer internal resources overall.
Focusing on CARE leads to stronger client relationships by putting emphasis on taking care of the client. It builds trust, rapport and even foresight into potential project risks or issues. With proper CARE, you are not only helping your client, you are also protecting your firm by consistently monitoring the quality and success of the project in every phase, with every client.
1. Gallo, Amy. Harvard Business Review Online. The Value of Keeping The Right Customers. (2014, Oct 29). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers.
2. BTI Consulting Group. Survey of Law Firm Client Service, Executive Summary. Page 1. (2017 & 2018 Client Surveys) Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51bb6aabe4b0820e6e778761/t/5a03580971c10badfd400ca1/ 1510168597569/BTI_Client_Service_A-Team_2018_Executive_Summary.pdf/
3. Kennedy, Michael and Greenberg, Steve. Clientship: Building Client Service Bridges to Profitability.
Second Edition. (2005).
4. Debaise, Colleen. Entrepreneur.com. Stop Losing Money and Focus on Customer Service (Infographic). (2013, Sept 3). Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228129#ixzz2dtg5wBrf.