Focus on Impact, Not Activity – A Model for Improved Customer Satisfaction
I got a note today from a friend who I had done quite a bit of work with on Habitat for Humanity projects over the years. She and her team were looking for ways to get a fresh look at how to present their value proposition to a long-standing client that had decided to put the work out for bid. This was not a negative reflection on my friend’s organization, but the client was just “kicking tires” to see what was out there.
We chatted about the need to ensure that the client consistently feels they are getting value for their dollar. I mentioned to my friend that a useful way of representing their contributions for this longer-term, retainer relationship was to not just focus on what they did for the client, the activities, but to carefully link them to the outcomes, or the impacts, of the work they did. My point here is that often our contributions can be taken for granted and it’s worth the time for both parties to re-clarify and reinforce how the client benefits from the relationship.
Activity, Impact and Feedback
I work with a fellow named Zack who handles my search engine optimization and social media work. I admire Zack and enjoy working with him but actually have very little idea what the activities are that he engages in. But the impacts are clearly delineated in terms of the various metrics that can be discerned from his work.
In talking to my friend today, I suggested that it would be advantageous to restate what the intended benefits, or impacts, are for the client and to solicit feedback about their level of satisfaction with each. So the process flows like this:
The benefits for my friend’s firm as they analyze the activities they engage in are as follows:
- Clarifying the various activities that result in each impact for the client;
- Providing the opportunity to think about the efficiency of each internal process in creating the various impacts;
- Matching the efficiency of their internal processes to the perceived benefits of each impact from the client’s perspective;
- If the impacts do not seem to be valued by the client, or do not seem to measure up to the standards the client demands, that may mean:
– My friend’s company needs to improve the caliber of their activities;
– They need to stop activities that the client doesn’t value;
– They need to revisit the goals or intent of the client for each element of this work;
– Some combination of the above.
I realize that engaging in this kind of exercise in the midst of completing an RFP to retain an important account is not very feasible, but it’s an important exercise that vendors like my friend and myself must engage in on a regular basis with their clients.
An Opportunity Missed
Several years ago I was engaged in a retainer relationship with a very important client of mine. I had coached a fairly large number of people within that organization over several years; many of which were at very senior levels. I made it a point to stay in touch with my former clients on an ongoing basis even after the regular coaching assignment was concluded, because I was convinced they valued these interactions. I approached the CEO as well as the head of Human Capital and they agreed to a modest monthly retainer to compensate me for my efforts. This went along fine for a couple of years.
One day, a new head of Talent Development, who managed the use of coaches for the firm, and the head of Human Capital asked me to join them for lunch. I came prepared with a full accounting of all my activity for all the clients I met with. It clearly showed that my total time spent with the clients exceeded the retainer payments. I assumed that the impact of my work was viewed positively, but I didn’t ask them about that.
After the meeting, I felt I had missed something but let it go. Within a year the retainer program ended. That does not mean I did not continue to get work from the client, but in retrospect, I see that now as a missed opportunity to learn more about the client’s mindset and how I could be an even more valuable resource.
As we near the year end and you reflect on your productivity – personally and for your team – ask yourself:
- What have the notable impacts been for the various activities we provide to our clients – internal or external?
- How do I measure how my clients value these activities?
- How often do we use the client’s feedback to assist us in improving our processes or product?
- Are we afraid to hear what the client is really thinking?
Please consider these questions and do all you can to be as impactful as you can be. Please share your experiences or ideas with us all in the comments section below.
Filed Under Relationships - Building and Maintaining Them