You are your own worst enemy when it comes to delivering superior value to your clients. And not because you don’t deliver it. The overwhelming majority of professionals tend to keep the substantial value they deliver a deep, dark secret.
Meet Darren, and the secret at the heart of his relationship with his client, Jonah:
Jonah felt a sense of panic. As the Chief Safety Officer of Buy Our Products (BOP) Inc., Jonah had just learned an OSHA inspector had found a number of violations at their main manufacturing facility. Out of 273 production machines, BOP Inc. was cited for 63 instances of missing safety devices on their manufacturing equipment.
Jonah conducted his own internal investigation and determined the safety devices weren’t missing, but had instead been modified. After speaking with employees on the floor, he discovered the employees removed part of the safety device to boost productivity (and consequently, their pay). Despite BOP Inc.’s clear policy and intended system for preventing this work-around, employees would remove the devices anyway.
Jonah knew fixing the devices was simple. Keeping the incident from becoming a brand-destroying event was the bigger challenge. In recent years, BOP Inc. had become extraordinarily sensitive to corporate citizenship, not to mention the potential $1 million fine would also raise eyebrows with management and the press.
Jonah called Darren, a renowned consultant for these matters. Darren immediately understood the implications and the issues and jumped head-first into his mission. First, he found precedent to have this infraction treated as a single incident instead of 63. Darren also discovered settled cases where a partial device was acceptable for safety purposes, indicating there may not have been a violation at all.
Darren penned a deal with the regulatory agency. Rather than pay the substantial $1 million fine, BOP, Inc. would pay a $160,000 fee to cover the cost of investigation and the company would have to agree to mandatory training and proof of compliance with the safety regulation. All of this was achieved with little fanfare and there was no need for BOP Inc. to disclose any of the issues or subsequent proceedings. Darren reported this outcome to a quite pleased Jonah.
4 months later, Jonah received Darren’s invoice for a total fee of $134,611.20.
Jonah studied the 6-page bill. The invoice listed hundreds of time entries detailing Darren’s time in 15-minute increments. Virtually all the time entries were categorized as “Meeting/Conference.” Jonah called Darren to ask why the invoice was so high relative to the fee paid to the agency, “Your fee is only $30,000 less than what we paid the inspectors. This feels a little out of proportion, particularly since you spent most of your time in meetings.”
Darren was dumbfounded. After a brief pause, he explained the nuances of how he had spent his time. Darren reminded Jonah of the long hours he and his compliance specialist had spent negotiating with OSHA and the extra finesse needed when dealing with the agency became difficult.
Despite the outcome delivered, Darren’s value was destroyed.
Darren is one of a large group of professionals who presume the value they bring to their clients is obvious for all to see. Let me be the first to tell you, what is obvious to you, is oblivion to your client. The client (Jonah) had lost sight of the savings Darren afforded BOP Inc. against a proposed $1 million fine. In the 4 months between the project resolution to the receipt of the bill, Jonah had also forgotten the potential reputational damages Darren had avoided.
Let’s be clear here: Darren also did not effectively articulate the value he was providing to BOP Inc. and Jonah. When a client sees a bill 4 months later without a note or client-friendly explanation, it’s hard for them to remember the original value you delivered.
What clients view as valuable, we consider part of the job. We neglect to share the intense problem-solving and challenging roadblocks we overcame in order to meet the client’s objectives. We deliver what the client expected, all while making the most difficult of tasks look easy.
The final insult comes when our client receives an invoice reflecting the hours and hours of hard work we endured. Hours, which due to circumstances out of our control, may not have been included in the original budget. Rather than applauding you for your ingenious solution or ability to avoid a much larger issue, all the client sees is: you blew past the budget.
This excerpt is just a snippet from my recently released book Clientelligence: How Superior Client Relationships Fuel Growth and Profits—an Amazon Top 30 Customer Service Best Seller and named a Best Book of 2015 by Kirkus Reviews. Already in use at over 125 law firms, the 17 activities within Clientelligence are proven drivers to superior client relationships. I hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about how you can use these activities to create and maintain superior client relationships of your own while fueling growth and profits, or order your copy, here.