Posted on May 22nd, 2016 2 comments
It is all about increasing or decreasing. Increasing revenue and/or decreasing costs. Using a CX strategy to improve sales and/or decrease marketing costs. Leaders must tie CX to business results.
Everyone wants to have the best experiences for their clients. Some even feel that driving up their overall client satisfaction score (sometimes at all costs) is a competitive edge. Innovative leaders understand that approach is too vague and not measureable in their world of “increasing and decreasing.” Clarity on if they love you or even what in particular they love about you will interest your executives but, they may not fund your CX initiative budget. A visionary CX strategist will tie specific business results (the ones the CEO consistently mutters about in the hallway) to her program. Moving past tracking to a higher client satisfaction score and demonstrating how it will improve the organization’s “increasing and decreasing” will win in your next budget cycle.
For professional services firms an easy example of cost savings is reducing client churn. Improving the retention of your current client base saves the cost of marketing and acquiring the replacement for revenue lost. A funny thing about improving the client experience for existing clients, they spend more. Now you have something on the “increasing” side of this equation.
It’s not all about the client retention. Most of our employees are technical experts in their respective practices. They are problem solvers at their very core and want nothing more than to delight the client representatives they engage with. Deploying a system that significantly improves a client experience improves the opportunity to delight the client and fulfill your employees. Fulfilled happy employees stay and are 12% more productive (Anchor-The Happiness Advantage.) To replace a mid-level employee the cost can be upwards of 150% of their annual salary. For high-level specialized employees the cost can rise to nearly 400% of their salary. Do a little math and you’ll help your executives understand how increasing employee retention will help in decreasing significant organizational costs.
Every firm is different in what is most important in the “increasing and decreasing” game. Find out what business results were in your last strategic plan and directly map them your CX strategy outcomes.
Posted on January 21st, 2016 No comments
Mike Pierce at The Austin Company writes about the concept of Building Relational Equity. This is a must read piece for anyone serious about understanding and improving client relationships.
Please comment below – what are your experiences building (or losing) relational equity?
Posted on November 24th, 2015 No comments
I’ve spent the year attending many of the best conferences in the industry, traveling alongside a few of the savviest business consultants, and working with many of the most forward-thinking professional services firms in the world. We’ve shared books, ideas, and other resources with each other. It’s December, and my brain is full!
Before I re-calibrate over the holidays and gear up for another new year of learning in 2016, I wanted to pause and reflect on the best of the best ideas I encountered in 2015. These ideas all went beyond AHA! moments and became integral pieces of how I operate. In short, these are the ideas that stuck, that changed my perception, and affected my behavior.
Perhaps you’ve been too busy this year to get the professional development you wanted. Perhaps you’re just curious. Either way – I’m sharing my curated list, the best of the best, the things that rose to the top.
In no particular order, here are ten things I learned this year I thought worth sharing:
- There Is No Hope! Darren Smith at Cima Strategic taught me to stop hoping for a project to end well. Instead, put processes in place to KNOW that it will end well. His goal: Have a “best project experience ever” – on every project. I have focused on understanding ideal outcomes from the beginning, and driving towards those more consistently.
- Precise Questions Matter. Bob Stocking at Vervago revealed the necessity of asking the right questions, precisely. A few simple techniques can keep even a talker like myself focused on listening with purpose. I have put into practice skills that are both more efficient and effective than the “old way” – leading to deeper conversations and more success in both sales and services delivery.
- Social Status is a Matter of Survival. Michelle Brown at Sentis shares how perceived social threats affect our neurochemistry, triggering base instincts and reactions rooted in the origins of humankind as a species. Becoming aware of these triggers, I have been able to re-wire my brain to handle criticism and negativity without the anxiety of before.
- Don’t Reject Myself. Jia Jiang at WuJu Learning, revealed how we’re so hardwired to avoid rejection, we will often reject ourselves before we allow others to reject us. Jia’s practical exercises have helped me be bolder, get over myself, and ask for more in life – and getting it.
- Clients Don’t Buy Me. Tim Asimos at circle S studio highlights how clients want their problems solved. I will never be an aspiration purchase, I will only be a practical part of a solution. I have begun to focus more on sharing relevant content that solves problems – and the work has followed.
- Communication Reduces Risk. Tim Corbett of SmartRisk presented evidence that firms that communicate effectively have a greater probability of being a “high performing firm.” These high performing firms realize dramatically increased profits and both reduced liability and liability premiums. I have begun re-engineering our services delivery process to increase the quality and frequency of client communication to drive better results.
- Client Journey Maps are Magic. Tania Salarvand at Valeocon showed me how to create a visual diagram that maps every step of a client interaction. Seeing all the exchanges and touch points enabled me to streamline our own client journey, launched a reorganization of our team to deliver accordingly.
- Client Delighters Drive Growth. Terry Reynolds at Kleinfelder shared a story of shopping at three stores one of which stood out. They surprised him with a unique approach that created real delight. It also created a new client and a sale. Terry’s experience encouraged me to look for delighters that we can insert into our processes every day.
- 21st Century Businesses Must be Frictionless. Geoff Colvin at Fortune Magazine discusses the concept of “frictionless” businesses – new ways of doing old things that simplify processes – taking all the bumps out of the path. Uber revolutionized the transportation market – and continues to threaten many other established businesses. Uber works because it’s EASY for the consumer. Every week at our weekly team meeting we now discuss where our clients see friction points, and discuss ways to remove the friction.
- Build a Habit Forming Business. Nir Eyal from Nir and Far reveals the four step process every game-changing application employs. In a decade, Facebook grew from nothing to actively engaging 20% of the world’s people on a daily basis – ever wonder how? I have taken the core insights from Nir’s research and begun to shape both our services and our products accordingly. Our clients succeed when they develop habits of engaging with us, and we succeed when they keep coming back for more.
I certainly learned more than these ten things – but these are the concepts, ideas, and best practices that have actually caused me to change how I approach business, leadership, and the future.
What are the concepts you have put into practice in 2015? If you’re not already registered, join us on December 15th for a complementary webinar and share your ideas (so I know what to work on next year).
Posted on November 19th, 2015 No comments
Are You Okay? I Was Worried About You.
That’s the first thing I heard from the receptionist at the dentist this morning. I had placed the appointment on my calendar an hour later than scheduled, and missed the visit.
Rather than show any frustration at how I messed up the schedule (it was a big visit), the receptionist’s first reaction was concern for me. You see, it was raining quite hard this morning. She knows I have a 30-mile commute. And her reaction to my lateness was one of care and concern – about me.
I’m sure my mistake caused problems. At the very least, they provided a dentist for two hours, and now he would not be billing those hours. We had to reschedule a visit for a few weeks out, so now they can’t sell those hours to someone else. Who knows what other challenges I inconvenienced them with.
Faced with a client who showed up an hour late to a meeting (or missed it altogether), many of us would sigh, or acknowledge the extra work we have to do now. Many of us would take another tack, and put on a good face: “Oh, no problem at all! We had a REALLY busy day here too, so it’s really quite convenient of you to reschedule. Actually, it helps us out a lot.” I’ve done that many times myself.
But I’ve never had a person in business say “Are you okay? I was worried about you.”
I’ve used the two unexpected hours of free time to ponder this mind shift, one where our bias is to care and to genuinely be concerned for our clients. Those two simple sentences humbled me immediately. Here I am, a professional who helps other professionals elevate their care for clients. And yet, would I have ever gone so far as this – SHOWING a client I care more about their wellbeing than my schedule?
The lesson is clear, but the application of the lesson less so. I appeal to you, readers, to contribute stories from your experience in business. When have you seen compassion like this in business? By citing example, perhaps we can all begin modeling transformational, differentiating care to our clients.
Posted on November 7th, 2015 No comments
What client conversations do you avoid because you fear rejection?
Jia Jiang, leading authority on rejection, has found a way beyond this harmful fear. And, I want to invite you to attend his webinar on Tuesday, November 17th. Jia is a dynamic speaker and will offer tips to set you free to achieve more in your business (and maybe even your life).
Jia will share his solution to the constant internal struggle we all face when looking rejection in the eyes. He tells the story of how he found the solution and finally conquered this fear.
According to Jia, the most important insight he learned while overcoming his fear of rejection: just ASK. If you don’t ask, you reject yourself before you give the other person a chance to say YES.
When delivering a project or working with clients, we all give away too much, we undersell our value, and we miss opportunities to succeed because we simply fear our clients saying “no”. Jia will provide actionable steps you and your team can immediately put in practice to get clients saying YES.
In this webinar Jia shares key insights:
- Rejection is an opinion – the rejection is theirs, not yours
- Fear of rejection turns others into adversaries rather than collaborators
- Giving people the chance to voice their doubts gains their attention and trust
- Rejection as a tool sharpens our learning, adaptation, and improvement
- Rejection is sometimes not rejection at all
Everyone who attends the Webinar on November 17th from 1:30 to 2:30 EDT can win one of ten copies of Jia’s book, Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible through 100 Days of Rejection.
Whether you are responsible for business development, project management, or you are leading a team of individuals, don’t miss this chance to hear Jia live, as he takes our audience on a journey of triumph and self-discovery.
Jia Jiang is a keynote speaker, author, and the founder of FearBuster. Jia has taken his message to the stage and is now a highly sought-after keynote speaker on how to empower your life by overcoming rejection. His story has been profiled in Bloomberg Business Week, Yahoo News, Forbes, and The Huffington Post. Soon, Jia is turning his “Rejection Therapy” into a highly anticipated television series.
Posted on October 15th, 2015 No comments
A problem that our A/E industry shares with the other white-collar service professions, we don’t always optimize our most important asset: our people.
I know you’ve heard this before, but do me a favor – keep reading.
As leaders we have a sense of what to do intuitively. The challenge is we often lack the specialized tools and processes to put our people into their optimum roles or give them the training and support they need to be most productive.
There is good news. Recent studies and surveys show that while most managers do not think that their firm’s current processes and approaches to improving performance of teams are very effective; they still think that approaches that are customized to the specific skill-set of each team member are best.
So, we all agree training each individual to do what comes naturally to them gives us the strongest teams. And when it comes to managing clients and managing production, understanding what piece of the puzzle each person brings to the team creates a team of specialists that excel at the work they provide your clients.
I want to invite you to attend my seminar this December at the PSMJ Industry Summit and if you register before November 9th, receive a $100 registration credit. Here is a quick link to some highlights I will be sharing in December.
In addition to all the valuable networking and excellent speakers you will hear at this year’s Summit, when you attend my seminar you will see the latest strategies used to create high performance teams. Through these specialized strategies, I will show you how to enhance job satisfaction by letting (and helping) each person do what they naturally do best. I will also share first-hand experience of how our firm “turned the ship” and used these methods to make us a stronger, more profitable firm while improving the performance and satisfaction of our team members.
- Seminar Includes the Following Strategies:
- Understanding the four major skill-sets in the A/E industry
- How to identify the skill-set profile for each of your team members
- Setting team member assignments by their profile type
- Enhancing cooperative interaction between types
- Fine-tuning feedback for each profile type
- Identifying the optimum training for each team member
While certainly of interest to firm leaders and managers whose role is to improve the performance of their firm’s teams, this seminar will contain information very helpful to anyone growing towards a leadership position or who wants to help their firm succeed.
I look forward to seeing you at the 2015 PSMJ Industry Summit! When you register, use Promo Code CFT to save $100.
Posted on August 13th, 2015 No comments
I know, I’m the guy who’s always talking about why you should track your clients’ perceptions. But here’s a story I think might sound familiar. Its about a mistake we made that is probably too often made by other firms during the creation of a proposal. And, I hope it will help you from making the same mistake.
Our firm had been building a relationship with a new prospective client for a while. We had spent time with them. We had asked questions to understand what their goals and needs really are. They had shared their concerns and challenges with us and we had guided them through how we collaborate with them to work through the challenges and to achieve their goals. We had stressed how we really cared about helping them. When we were ready to submit our proposal, our firm and the client felt confident we could help them have a positive outcome.
Besides our submittal, the client wanted to see a proposal from the General Contractor who would work with us. So, we sat down with the General Contractor and went through everything. At the end of the meeting, I felt good about the fact we were all on the same page. They said they understood what was needed. They would be extremely helpful and would help our mutual client achieve their goals. So we asked them to preview their proposal to our client.
What they sent us was a long list of prices for services included in the project and a very long list of what was not included. There was nothing about their understanding of the project and how they could help. It basically described the deliverables they would produce, instead of the help they would provide. Clients are hiring us to create deliverables, those are just means to an end. It is the end result they need from us. Instead of telling the client how collaborative they would be, their proposal was all about them and what they would and wouldn’t do.
I called them and said we needed to talk. We needed to get our proposals better aligned and more focused on the client and their needs. I pulled out our proposal so I could show them what we were looking for the proposals to convey. When I looked at our proposal all I could say was, “I can’t believe it, we made the same mistake!”
It’s so easy to stay in our own heads, to look at our proposal more from our perspective than the client’s. We just do things the way we’ve always done them instead of looking at what we are intending to offer our clients. We don’t mean to. We really care about helping them achieve their goals. Our plan is to be collaborative with them.
But how often does the proposal they get from us say just the opposite?
Communication can get off track with no one meaning for that to happen. That is why I believe it is so important to continue to track our clients’ perceptions over time.
Our research shows that the #1 thing clients want from us is an effective relationship. And what that means to them is meaningful communication and responsiveness. I didn’t say frequent communication. I said meaningful. There is a difference. At least from our clients’ perspective.
Getting too focused on our processes happens to all of us. We get busy. The question is, do our processes let us hear from our clients in a meaningful way? A way to track that our project delivery process works for them? At Phillips, we understand that even though we communicate with our clients regularly, using a process that tracks their perceptions of that process and gives them an easy way to let us know if they would like any changes, is critical because we are so busy.
I wanted to tell this story on myself because I think it is so important. I suspect something similar has happened to some or all of you as well.
Download this complimentary webinar “Build Client Loyalty and Avoid Surprises”. In the webinar I’ll share how to identify each of your clients’ hot buttons. And how to tell immediately if they change. It’s easy to ensure you are always meeting or exceeding your clients’ expectations and I need not tell you of the obvious benefits that will have for your firm.
Mike Phillips AIA, is a national speaker on the topic of building client loyalty through aligning with client perceptions. He has spoken numerous times for PSMJ, Zweig White, ROG, ACEC, and AIA. He has also been published in PSMJ and AEMA journals. Mike has been running a successful architectural firm for more than 30 years. He understands the impact on marketing, staff retention, performance, and profitability when you don’t know what your clients are thinking.
Posted on April 9th, 2015 No comments
I’ve always enjoyed Star Trek, especially the original with Kirk and Spock.
Like me, you likely assume your decisions and behaviors are based on a balance of sound logic and appropriate emotion – a little bit of Spock and not too much of Kirk.
The reality, based on the neuroscience of our brains, is much more nuanced. What drives each of us to ‘do what we do’ and make the decisions we make is deeply rooted in our attitudes and perceptions, and the chemical reactions happening in our brains as we encounter different situations.
Client Feedback Tool recently teamed up with Michelle Brown of SENTIS for a webinar ‘The Science (and Neuroscience) of Great Teams‘. Does that sound cerebral and intimidating? It wasn’t.
Michelle provided insight into what drives human behavior, and yes that includes clients too. She explained why our perceptions so strongly influence our behaviors. And, she shared practical ideas anyone can implement to get more of the outcomes you want from any of the humans in your life.
I won’t give the ending away, but consider this. According to Michelle, the same flight/fight response we experience when we perceive we are in physical danger is at play when our brains perceive there is a social threat. The flip side is also true, our brains send us the same signals whether we are eating a delicious donut or receiving a positive affirmation from a member of our team or a client.
Download this 90-minute webinar today. Watch it yourself and then share it with your team.
Is there anything MORE important than understanding your clients?
Posted on March 25th, 2015 No comments
Oh. I bet this guy learned a lesson he’ll never forget.
It was one of those ‘Aha!’ moments when the light bulb goes on and your thinking and behavior change forever. He’ll never go back to a square wheel again. He’ll never wake up one day and haul a woolly mammoth across the steppes and realize he put the wrong wheel on today.
Not all learning sticks like that.
I am bombarded with opportunities to learn. Most of what I learn goes in, and right back out. Some ideas are important enough I capture them as an action item. “Go to the gym” might be one of those. Something important that I want to do, but I have to act upon the item to make the change. Many times, the change never happens. It’s too much work.
Then I have moments that change the way I think. When I see a situation differently. When I realize I can’t go back and un-know what was learned. More than knowing, this type of moment changes behavior – automatically. These moments don’t happen often, and they are real game-changers.
I help professional services firms uncover ‘Aha!’ moments with their clients, and within their firms, that allow them to drive greater success and satisfaction just because they know. I reviewed the report below with one of our clients. To help you see the ‘Aha! moment’, let me share information about how to read this data.
- The scale on the right is used when a clients responds to a feedback request. The scale centers automatically at Met Expectations, driving clients to intentionally move the slider up or down to change the score.
- The chart on the left, the black bar indicates the average score (by Project Manager). The dark blue represents the scores in the 25% – 75% range. The light blue shows the minimum or maximum scores.
When reviewing this chart, I focused on two project managers, Chris and Dan. Both were, at a minimum, meeting their clients’ needs. Most of Chris’ scores were in the Excellent to Exceptional range. Dan’s scores were between Met Expectations and Exceeded Expectations. Some may think that Chris is the better project manager. After all – he’s at the top of the chart! But, when I asked one question, we found an ‘Aha!’ moment.
“What is the difference in their project profitability?”
Chris’ projects average 3% profitability. Dan’s average 38%. Chris was chronically over-delivering on his projects and not charging for services out of scope. Dan, on the other hand, has a very clear sense of what his clients’ value and he prices his services accordingly.
We showed this to Chris. He had an ‘Aha!’ moment. He realized his clients value the work he does for them. He stopped doing things they didn’t care about and started charging appropriately for services out of scope. Understanding what his clients were telling him changed everything.
The rest of the story…
When we checked back six months later, Chris’ project profitability had already taken a healthy upturn (up to 18%). And his feedback scores, while lower, still were near the top of the pack.
One simple ‘Aha!’ moment changed everything for Chris. Not only was he earning his keep with the shareholders, but he felt validated by his clients, and continued to deliver a high-value proposition to them. What an easy win/win/win story.
Interested in hearing more about stories like Chris’s – and how you can discover your own stories to drive success both within your firm and with your clients?
Download “The Power of Storytelling for Your Firm“ – a 90-minute Webinar outlining the importance of storytelling, methods for gathering stories, tips for using stories internally to improve staff and culture, and best practices for using stories externally in marketing, business development, and project delivery.
I’ll wager you have an ‘Aha!’ moment by the end. What are you waiting for?
Posted on March 20th, 2015 No comments
I rarely feel compelled to do this but PLEASE don’t miss this webinar on Tuesday 3/24.
As co-founder of a business serving AEC firms, I attend industry events all year. While I’m out there, I look for the 6 – 8 absolutely best presentations to share with you. In the last year, I’ve been to a hundred sessions delivered by industry experts. Most are good. Some are great. A few really catch my heart and mind. And then, there’s this.
In her presentation, Michelle Brown from SENTIS revealed the science and physiology of the human brain as affected by relationships and services experiences. There’s actual science to explain why and how your clients behave, how that affects your employees, and how to drive changes that increase positive outcomes for everyone. No fluff. Real stuff.
Does this all sound too cerebral or intimidating (it’s not). It’s just a webinar designed for technical professionals to help them better understand client relationships. People demystified. Behavioral biochemistry. Measureable outcomes and results.
I hope you’ll go out on a limb with me. Attend this FREE webinar Tuesday, March 24th (1:00 – 2:30 pm ET). You’ll be part of an exclusive group who knows something amazing.
Michelle Brown is a nationally-awarded leader and consultant who partners with successful organizations to combine neuroscience, human performance, and organizational psychology to deliver improvement in operational performance. As the field of human behavior and psychology expands with new technology and more robust science, we have more insight today than ever before on the impact leadership can have on employee engagement, how employees are more connected to organizational outcomes than we have previously thought, and why business leaders must pay as much attention to the brains within their business as they do to the bottom line. With a focus on people, Michelle has designed and delivered more than a dozen culture change initiatives across the globe, realizing measureable change in productivity, safety and employee engagement.