What Does Client-Centricity Really Mean?
post # 77 — May 15, 2006 — a Client Relations, Strategy post
One of the most common and confusing terms in business today is “client centricity” or “client focus.” Many businesses claim to have it. Few are clear about what they mean by the term.
Charles Green, my coauthor on Trusted Advisor has a wonderful analogy. He points out that many companies have the client focus of a vulture – they pay close attention to what the clients are up to, but only in order to figure out the right time to pounce and tear at their flesh!
This is a very apt description of many company’s “client relationship plans” or client relationship management (CRM) systems. They are not really plans to build a relationship at all – they are just a list of activities trying to tell the clients about the wonderful things we can do for them. A sales plan is not a relationship-building plan.
But what could client centricity really mean if we were to take the term seriously?
I suspect that there are levels of client-centricity or client focus.
What follows is my attempt to describe increasing levels of client focus (and possibly of marketplace effectiveness.)
Level 1: We do a better job than our competitors at listening to customers and work hard at finding out what they like and don’t like about dealing with us.
Level 2: We have a better understanding (than competitors) of what the experience is like of being a client
Level 3: In designing our operations and activities, we focus on what the client wants to buy, rather than what we want to sell
Level 4: We have ongoing tracking methods (quantitative and judgmental) to assess the quality of the clients’ experience, as judged by the client.
Level 5: We treat those client satisfaction / quality metrics as equally important (if not more so) than financial scorecards in evaluating groups and people.
Level 6: We have provided experiential training to everyone who deals with clients on how to be a better counselor, helping them develop their interpersonal, psychological, social and emotional skills and ability to interact with others.
Level 7: We continually use our better understanding of the experience of being a client in order to enhance the quality of the experience for the client in dealing with us.
Level 8: We are able (and do) treat customers as unique, adapting and responding to each with a customized approach, rather than adopt standard methods of dealing with all clients.
Level 9: We have thoughtful, well-executed plans to invest (without fee) our own time and money in growing the relationship with key clients, earning and deserving their trust and future business
Level 10: We place a greater emphasis in our measure and reward systems on growing existing client relationships rather than pursuing new accounts. Relationships are more important then volume around here.
Level 11: Clients believe that if it is ever a trade-off, we will put the clients’ interests ahead of our own.
OK, reality time!
How well would you rate your company’s client focus on these criteria?
What have I left out or got in the wrong order?