There are two common misconceptions regarding process improvement initiatives. First, some people believe you can’t be more efficient without negatively impacting quality. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I’ve written substantially about this in the past and it’s a core topic we discuss in all of our client organizations. Efficiency and quality are not mutually exclusive. In fact, one should lead to the other if your process improvement initiative is done correctly.
The second misconception is that by undertaking a process improvement initiative, we could be negatively impacting our client service. Once again, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Those who understand Lean and process improvement understand that at the heart of Lean is a relentless pursuit of maximizing value (service and opportunities) for clients. The latter misconception will be the focus of this article, along with how this model closely relates to providing more Advisory Service-level work for clients.
Kano Model of Client Satisfaction
A great way to illustrate the point of delivering greater value to clients is in the form of the Kano Model, a well-researched and defined customer service model. From this model we analyze three different customer service “curves,” each of which describe services we provide to clients. The three are Basic, Performance and Delighter services.
The Basic curve is comprised of the compliance-type services that your clients completely take for granted. These services are very close to being viewed as a commodity. The thought process may go “anyone can do this type of work,” so naturally, if all of your time and work is spent at this level, you’re competing on fees. From a client perspective, there’s very little differentiation. An example of this level of service is providing the traditional (basic) monthly bookkeeping, but failing to elevate to an Advisory Services model through better cloud technology and focus of time. Are you just providing a monthly financial statement and is that what the client really values – or do they value something more?
As a firm elevates its services, the next curve to explore under the Kano Model is the Performance services. The definition of Performance services are those activities you perform that provide the primary results your clients are seeking. This is your first layer of differentiation. The more of these services you provide and the more strategic focus and/or time you set aside to operate at this level, the happier your clients are. On the Client Accounting side, it’s not just about reporting numbers, but helping to tell the story of those numbers. What operational and/or performance improvement opportunities can you help uncover for your clients? The more you shift to this mindset and level of service, the happier your clients will be.
Finally, true client satisfaction and loyalty comes at the Delighter level of service. This is the “wow” factor that you provide to clients. The definition of the Delighter curve is unexpected elements of service that you provide to clients that truly differentiate your organization; the level that generates a client response of “wow.” Even a little bit of this level of service escalates the firm on the client satisfaction scale.
How Lean helps organizations to “Delight”
If the goal of an organization is to operate at more of the Delighter level, first and foremost we must create the time and opportunities to do this. Unfortunately, many firms we visit have individuals at all levels who are so mired in the details of the basic compliance and commodity work that they can’t escape and think more strategically for clients. So at a Basic level of services, we must find ways to make those processes more crisp and effective. We can’t waste time operating at this level. That work must be done for clients, but we must find ways to do it in a crisp and effective manner while maintaining and building our quality.
If we can improve our efficiency at the Basic level, we can free up time to operate at the Performance and Delighter levels of service – therefore elevating our client service and delivering greater value. We can be more tuned in to the needs of our clients, what they value and want, and actually deliver on the promise of being a trusted advisor. Through the Lean process improvement focus, and elevated technology, we can ensure more of our work is being done at the correct level; we can ensure that redundant steps are reduced; and most especially, we can ensure that client value is central to everyone in our organization.
Delivering value is so much more than inputting or reviewing boxes in a tax program, or making journal entries to close out month-end. Deliver exceptional client service through Lean. Your clients deserve it.
If you're interested in reaping the benefits of process improvement, connect with some of the brightest and most influential people in accounting by exploring our Lean Six Sigma certification program and The Flowtivity Process™ consulting services.