Every firm understands the importance of client service. However, most firms struggle with establishing a consistent level of client service among all levels of the firm. Why is this? I have asked many Managing Partners this question and the most common answer I hear is that the firm lacks a culture of providing great client service. I then follow up with another question, "how would you describe a firm that has a culture of client service?” Most answers are similar to:
- Everyone in the firm understands what great client service is
- Everyone in the firm talks about client service
- Everyone in the firm understands the client’s needs and puts the client first
These answers are correct and I would suggest that there are many additional correct answers. I then ask, "okay, so how do you become that type of firm?” The most common answer is, "that’s been our problem, I don’t know.”
I would submit that most firms struggle with consistently providing a high-level of client service because they are focusing on external clients first and not internal clients. Internal clients are those within your firm. Those you work with every day and have thousands of conversations with each year. If your internal team is not providing a high-level of client service to one another, how could you expect them to consistently provide a high-level of client service to the firm’s external clients?
Only when you first focus on internal client service will your culture begin to change. Your entire firm needs to understand the concept of internal client service. There needs to be a common language and understanding of what it means to provide a high-level of client service to one another.
As part of the Five Star Client Service program, we walk firms through the 7 keys to creating a Five Star Client Service culture. The principles listed below are based on the same principles Five Star hotels and restaurants use to achieve high-quality service. If your firm focuses on the 7 areas below, you will begin to see a cultural shift happen and your firm’s level of client service will rise.
#1 – Connecting (Relationships)
"Meaningful relationships are developed through ongoing communication, which fosters trust, care and confidence. Proactive connecting builds relationships.”
Building a strong internal team within your firm requires you to build strong working relationships through open and honest communication. The best way to start building strong, professional relationships is to practice the principles 2-7 listed below.
#2 - Taking the Order
"Expected results are created in the mind before they are produced.”
Every successful job or project begins with proper preparation and communication. Your firm should work to anticipate each other’s perspectives and needs while asking the right questions to ensure "the order” is being taken correctly.
#3 - Delivering the Order
"Perceptions of value for intangible services are created through emotions.”
Delivering the order focuses on making sure all parties understand the service that’s been performed and the benefits that have resulted. Consistently delivering the order well begins to make your firm a great place to work.
#4 - Ascertaining Satisfaction
"Long-term relationships are sustained from meeting, and then exceeding, stated and unstated needs.”
Ascertaining satisfaction is making sure your team understands how their efforts are perceived by those they are serving and if expectations were met.
#5 - Offering Dessert
"The law of the harvest – you reap what you sow.”
Offering Dessert is one of the most fun parts of belonging to a high-performing, strongly branded firm. It bonds relationships and enhances your firm’s culture. The best firms seek opportunities to offer dessert.
#6 - Collecting the Check
"The perception of value is highest at the moment of delivery.”
Internal and external clients value services the most at the time of delivery. Collecting the Check is the appropriate time to set the stage for the relationship’s future and build ongoing satisfaction.
#7 - Recovery
"Long-term trust and respect is built on taking responsibility for your actions.”
Recovery is the systematic steps we take to reestablish a relationship after we make a mistake or create a problem.
Creating a Five Star Client Service culture isn’t always easy, but it can be fun. I’ve had the privilege of taking firms through the Five Star Client Service process and it’s always a joy to see all levels of the firm engaged in becoming "Five Star.” High-performing team members want to work in a Five Star Client Service culture. If your firm could improve in the area of client service, have your internal team start practicing the 7 keys list above.