Today more than ever, client service is the key to any successful business. How to reach excellence in that domain may be a complicated task for any kind of business. However some companies are now implementing client-oriented strategies in the quest for excellence.
The art of ‘client service’ is a very complex one. Whether if you are the owner of a butchery store or the CEO of a multinational firm, the question ‘how to implement client service’ must have already crossed your mind. Of course there are hundreds of books about what ‘every professional should know about client service’ but the truth is: there is not one perfect strategy that will apply for everyone in every business. The key is adaptability and the understanding of your clients’ needs and some companies have discerned it really well.
The simple version of excellence in client service is the so-called ‘triangle of success’. It’s the relationship between trusted client relationships and great work… Meaning that the relationship builds trust which leads to great work, which reinforce the relationship, and so forth.
That is the basics of any business model; everyone working in the goal of success should work cohesively with the client, to have a successful relationship, and therefore deliver successful work. But yet many have not fully comprehended that easy triangle and find themselves lost in their client relationships early in the game.
This is how companies built on the idea of assessing the client experience are succeeding where other failed. AirBnB or Uber are good examples of success stories where client service is crucial and therefore generates more business. The recent idea of ‘reviewing’ the host or the driver, and publishing this data instantly, creates a trust and a relationship between the consumer and the service provider, even if the two actually never had business together. The idea is that the consumer trusts the platform enough (and therefore the other users) that he will give his trust to the one business that was ‘well rated’ by others.
It is a fact that more and more business will have to confront customer reviews and surveys in order to stay in business. Today, around 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personnel recommendations (1), more than one out of two customers read reviews on a regular basis and nearly 9 in 10 consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business. These tendencies keep increasing every year, making it harder and harder for business that are not ‘client oriented’ to survive the trend.
Surveys show that the best companies by customer experience rating are often supermarkets, fast food, retailers or banks (2).
In the recent years, these types of business have been in the front line of improving the client service in the ‘customer experience’. Especially in the U.S, the clients want an efficient, convenient and fast service. That is the case since the 1930s when, for the first time in history, the Grand National Bank of St. Louis, Missouri allowed deposits through a drive through window. Nowadays, that kind of convenience is valued in many of the businesses with a storefront.
But companies can also organically structure themselves to reach excellence in client service. In the book ‘achieving excellence through customer service’, John Tschohl depicts the changing picture of american business that are evolving around the idea of excellence in client service. He mentions JP Morgan Chase Bank as making crucial changes to improve its client service at all levels.
It starts with its day to day banking customers: “in 2001, J.P Morgan/Chase and Citibank, with 60 percent market share, will be easy targets, I think it is the most undeserved banking market in the country. New York City is the city that never sleeps except for the banks, which close at 3 p.m” (3). And in the past years we have seen many banks addressing these issues from the bottom all the way to the top, with a much more client dedicated approach at all levels of interests.
But for companies that don’t necessarily have a storefront open to anyone, client service is a must as well. Duff & Phelps, American based global valuation and corporate finance advisor but also compliance & regulatory consulting firm, is known for its specific client oriented approach. Flexible hours to fit best the clients’ needs, specialized experts hired to serve specific requests and capacities to intervene whenever the client is in need.
“The clients expect the best; the best technical experts and the people that have the highest standard of professionalism, who can protect confidentiality, but also who can be pragmatic. There are a lot of variables in transactions and structuring deals, in evaluating alternatives and assets, and making sure all that is right and compliance is reached. Combining rigorous technical analysis with a thoughtful, pragmatic, client approach is essential”, said Duff & Phelps’ managing director Yann Magnan while explaining the company’s specific philosophy (4). It’s no surprise, he comments: “our clients are typically C- Level executives and board members; you can imagine how demanding they can be! They are constantly under pressure to make the right decisions and they expect us to be able to help them making these decisions.”
Duff & Phelps’ philosophy seems to be the road to go for many major companies that specialize in advisory and services: Fully dedication to the client, availability when needed and personal relationship. In companies like Duff & Phelps, it is not rare that the client is treated like family and has the private phone number of its spokesperson within the company.
The idea goes beyond the american saying ‘the client is always right’ but meets what the French consumers expect when they say that ‘the client is always King’. More and more companies who want to reach excellence in client services will take that road in the upcoming years. Clients will be expecting more and more, and the race for client service excellence will follow.
(1) Local Consumer Review Survey 2014, BrightLocal, all respondents are from the USA (90%) and Canada (10%).
(2) Temkin Group Customer Experience Ratings (TxR), 2015 survey
(3) Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, John Tschohl
(4) Interview with Yann Magnan from: From valuation to M&A: Duff & Phelps is on the fast track to the strategic advisory elite