Loyalty to Whom?
post # 451 — October 17, 2007 — a Client Relations, Managing post
Another reader question: A partner of a large firm specializing in training and development asks how to make sure that the clients develop loyalty to the firm, as opposed to the individual trainer?
When the firm gets a contract to train managers of a company X, the firm assigns a trainer (who is, most commonly, an independent contractor) to the company. If the company likes the results of the training, they would most likely invite the same training firm again and again, most commonly asking for the same trainer. Over time, the relationship between the trainer and the client company flourishes to the degree that the company starts offering training assignments directly to the trainer, without even notifying the firm.
How can the training company protect itself from such an unfortunate turn of events? I realize that there are some “half-baked” solutions like, for instance, try not to send the same trainers to the same company, but there should be something else.
There are two dimensions along which this can be examined. There is a triangle formed by the individual consultant (or trainer), the client and the consulting (or training) firm. The question makes clear the strength of the link between the individual and the client. But what strengthens the link between (a) the client and the firm and (b) the individual and the firm?
In both cases, we are asking how the firm â€œadds valueâ€ above and beyond the talents of the individual service provider. Some possibilities:
- On-going enhancement of the consulting / training product or service
- Access for both the individual consultant and the client to proprietary tools owned by the firm
- Access for both the individual consultant and the client to research conducted by the firm
- Access for both the individual consultant and the client firm to regular â€œsolonsâ€, discussion groups, seminars and other learning opportunities, so that there is Value in belonging to the network.
Does anyone else have other ideas?
Alison Clayton-Smith said:
As someone who works both with my own clients and as an associate for larger consultancies, I think the key thing here is developing a relationship with each party (trainer and client) that is based on trust and honesty. The ideas you have David about developing value for each party should certainly aid that. I think it is also critical to be upfront about this at the start of the relationship. The consultancies I work through have contracts with clauses about not ‘poaching’ clients. I particularly like though, the culture of one of these consultancies which is ‘come and talk to us if you think there might be an issue’. And they even provide suggested ways to handle the client if the issue arises. It might also be that should such a conflict arise, some negotiation around a one-off transfer fee, or similar could be agreed.
If as a consultancy you treat me well, help me feel part of the organisation, help me out if I have an issue and give me opportunities to learn from you, then I will feel loyal to you. If on the other hand you treat me as expendable, don’t help to ensure that I get paid, hardly ever contact me other than around specific work, etc., then I might not feel so inclined to fulfill my side of the bargain.
Hope that helps.
posted on October 17, 2007