schneider + partners has over 25 years of experience helping creative and project based organisations to be even more successful in running their organisations and achieving their goals. This series of tips and supporting notes reflects some of the main issues that we have seen. Some are surprisingly elemental:
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schneider + partners
creative management consultants - london
+ 44 (0)20 7586 0110
Listen to your clients
How well do you know what your clients, the consultants you work with, your contractors, your suppliers and others are really wanting from you and how they experience working with you? What truly delights them? What seriously frustrates them?
Our clients often tell us that they know, but usually they only appreciate part of the story. The process of systematically listening to those who you work with almost invariably brings new insights about what others are actually looking for, what they really value, how their attitudes may be shifting, how they perceive your organisation in comparison to your competitors, and what it's like to work with you - from their perspective.
The challenge facing project based organisations is ensuring that the experience of working with them is delivered to a consistent high standard, from beginning to the end of the ‘journey'. This is especially the case with organisations offering strong service and looking for high levels of repeat commission. Here it is vital to know what is working well and where things may be failing. Seemingly minor issues - billing processes, perceived speed of responsiveness, lack of flexibility or reciprocity, and so forth - can soon become sources of significant irritation. Sometimes the very growth that initially resulted from the exceptional levels of service that was offered can cause that service quality to be unsustainable. Proactively listening to your clients provides a check that you are still on track - and in the process provides an opportunity for any negative issues to be dealt with before they become critical.
How best to listen? Regular, open and frank conversations are vital. Some organisations use web based questionnaires, although we tend to find them useful only up to a point. Our own preference in many instances is for semi-structured telephone interviews with key individuals, with the results fed back via a report comprising grouped, non-attributed verbatim quotes. These highlight both what an organisation is doing well and where there is scope for improvement. The feedback also helps focus marketing messages and gets the team to buy into the process of addressing issues that may be less than positive.
Listening to clients and others also makes good marketing sense. It tells them that you care about what they think. And it can provide a reason to make contact with people you may not have spoken to recently.
Listening is an activity that we can easily become complacent about. But our attention really kicks in when we hear something unexpected, dangerous or wonderful. The good thing about the client research process is that almost invariably it results in a mix of messages that combine the surprising, the reassuring, and sometimes the disconcerting, which together are ultimately always very useful.