With the added complexity due to globalization and increased demand, there’s now more pressure on consulting firms to focus on better customer delivery in order to keep clients happy. Key challenges faced by many growing firms include understanding the client needs properly, defining engagement scope, and expected outcome. If these are not addressed, it results in client dissatisfaction.
Based on our experiences of working with globally spread clients, partners and prospects, below are few practices which have helped up drastically improve the quality of global engagements and resulted in client success:
1. Understanding the client needs and objectives proactively to bring clarity in engagement
Understanding the client needs and providing an appropriate solution is the cornerstone of a consulting services firm.
It is important to invest time skillfully to understand client needs. Some of the basic steps are (i) gaining valuable insights about the client and a concise study on their products/services, (ii) meetings, phone calls to discuss and validate/ modify understanding of client need.
When the client feels he is understood well, trust, confidence and credibility is established.
2. Managing Confidentiality of Agreement
Sustaining trust is an important aspect in a business relationship. It is necessary to create a level of confidence between the parties and thereby drafting a confidential agreement as a key step. Clients, at the same time, also faces issues with small consulting firms on not following diligently, the terms agreed. The purpose of this agreement is to maintain the confidentiality of all information regarding clients business unless and until clients permit to disclose the information.
3. Planning Scope of work and Draft Proposal
Based upon the agreed understanding of client needs and confidentiality agreement, next step is to set right expectations on the scope and objective of the projects. At many times during the project execution, scope varies due to externalities involved, misunderstanding the client’s expectations or terms of the agreement. Sometimes we move out of scope and focus due to enthusiasm/data overload/ giving importance to non-priority points. As a result, we end up adding additional work without much clarity of thought.
Therefore, it is necessary to design a project to manage such deviations. As a best practice, we create a draft proposal after an internal study on the client agreed requirement. This document typically includes client requirement, scope of work, methodology & approach, detailed work plan including deliverable, duration, resource allocation, and commercial terms to bring further clarity in engagement.
After clients’ review, the draft proposal is discussed, tweaked and made into a formal proposal which the client is happy to accept.
4. Quality and Accuracy of data available
While undertaking any research based activities, one of the key challenges is to get accurate and up-to-date information about the industry market. Hence, it is important to gauge accurate, up-to-date facts and figures and manage the data in appropriate format for final compilation. Providing qualitative and quantitative information based on the secondary research with credible/authoritative references is also important for better results/ reports. Typical research projects include market sizing, customer survey, competitive landscape, etc. of the industry.
5. Maintaining Long-term relationships with client
Communication solves most of the problems. Maintaining long-term relationship with clients is important and many companies face a problem with this, especially when their clients are spread across different geographies. With the addition of new clients, the list keeps on increasing and the key challenge is to be in touch or maintain a relationship with the old clients. As a best practice, it is suggested to regularly communicate/follow-up with the clients via E-mails, Phone call, Skype, periodic business/ festive newsletters, in-person meeting, social media etc.