Three tips for keeping in touch

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Thanks to social media, everybody is “in touch” these days….aren’t they? Well, sort of.

Certainly there is now a burgeoning mass of communication – but it is conducted largely in one-way, remote broadcast mode. It is no substitute for meaningful dialogue and actual contact: this remains the best way to keep front-of-mind with clients and prospects so that business has a real chance to flow. So what to do – once you’ve “done” lunch or entertainment? Here are three ideas to help you keep properly engaged.

Get out there!  It is difficult enough to uproot many professionals from their offices to visit clients. But, if this can be done, why not go a step further and get them to spend this time on the shop floor, experiencing what it is really like to be at the sharp end of the business?  It is a point of policy for many service-orientated businesses that senior managers do this on a regular basis.  Asking to go along for the day with them could prove an especially powerful relationship and knowledge-building pursuit.

Come and tell us like it is  “We’re all so focused on assignments and delivering to deadlines that we rarely give ourselves the chance to look wider”.  For professionals this can mean understanding what it is like to be in the client’s shoes.  One walk for this particular talk is to get good clients to come and speak with the team about what it is like to be on the receiving end of your things.  The results can be very productive: like the startling revelation that a one page board report is all that is required, rather than the 100 page ‘whopper’ which regularly hits their desk!

Matchmaking for bench marking  This is about applying a bit of lateral thinking: looking beyond the narrowness of transactions at the key professional/technical or business processes that underpin the operations of client organisations.  Clever professionals are always on the look-out for clients in these important areas who display excellence and those who are experiencing issues or problems.  Why?  Because if they are non-competing, one party can learn from the other – and as the matchmaker for this bench marking exercise you are positioned strongly as a trusted professional for both parties.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, interim, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

 

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Three tips to get your PARs up (it’s not golf!)

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Talking to professionals about their PARs (Post Assignment Reviews) used to be a quite fleeting experience….usually because few actually did them.  That’s still largely the case today.  Back in the day, some “just didn’t have the time” or – if we are to be fully truthful – the prospect of analysing what happened during a transaction and talking to the client about it was considered well beyond the pale.  After all, who on earth would be daft enough deliberately to open themselves up to such criticism?!

Funnily enough this is not the perception of most clients – they often rate highly those firms (and individuals) who quickly and efficiently rectify mistakes.  However, they also want the confidence to know that it won’t happen again for the next piece of work – PARs provide a great opportunity to ensure that.

To conduct a PAR properly – and really deliver on the benefits of greater client satisfaction, the development of more opportunities to do business, and better efficiency via service improvements – requires more than just a conversation with the client.  For any significant transaction, an effective PAR process starts with internal review of what happened, so that the subsequent client conversation is properly informed and delivers real value for both parties.   That done, here are three tips on how to help this stage work well…and enhance the usefulness of your firm’s PARs.

Team not type (people not paper) Time being of the essence for many of us, there can be a tendency to run the internal PAR as a tick-box exercise.  This is to be avoided.  Getting team members together for a short meeting – supported by a written pre-briefing – delivers real value in terms of the quality and quantity of data gathered.  The lead partner or manager can really drill down into the issues; and the experience itself promotes better team working, communication and co-operation, particularly across different departments and offices to help overcome the ‘silo’ effect.

Be in the know (how)  All of the logical issues should be encompassed in a PAR – measuring performance against specification, how well the assignment was managed, profitability etc. One of the less obvious issues must also be included, because of its wider impact.  Good PARs include the capturing of improvements in know-how and ways of working – for the firm and client. This know-how might be external opinions or documents that have implications beyond the individual client; changes in methodology may also extend to new working practices. For these innovations the focus is as much on communicating relevant improvement recommendations to the firm and sometimes clients at large, as it is to dealing with the one team/client in question.

Ensure follow-up  Capturing knowledge and expertise enhancement is one thing: the successful implementation of actions is the significant other. Each PAR must have a short written report of its outputs, including a summary of recommended action points for individuals. It is the job of the client management team to ensure then that these recommendations are agreed and that they are actioned (this means follow-up – as persistently as necessary!). We have seen too many excellent improvements disappear into the ether for lack of such follow-up.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other technical specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.