Managing client service in a professional services firm

“Without strong management of client service, staff will be left to their own devices and interpretation of desired service levels.”

Excellent client service and memorable client experiences is directly related to effective management and strong leadership. Without strong management of client service, staff will be left to their own devices and interpretation of desired service levels. This is potentially a recipe for disaster – ultimately leaving the client unhappy and unsatisfied. How can directors, partners and managers better manage client service levels in the firm? Here are four steps to better manage client service in your firm:

Determine service quality
Clients expect more – always. Client service management starts with an understanding of what your client wants and expects. Therefore, you need to start with the end in mind. What are the desired results you want to achieve through client service, what performance levels do you want to see in your firm and how are you going to achieve this (service strategy)? Step one in client service management requires the following:

  • Service design: Service design is focused on the overall service experience as well as the design of the process and strategy to provide the service. It focuses on innovating services across multiple touchpoints such as the initial contact, the process of engagement and the post-consumption experience.
  • Identify the client journey: The client journey maps every step the client will take from initial contact to the buying decision and transactions. Identify the key points of interaction a client has with your firm, analyse the feelings and motivations of the client during each of these touchpoints and then design service levels that can complement and support the client and service provider interaction.
  • Design a service blueprint: A service blueprint is a visual diagram that allows all staff to look beyond the core service and examine the systems that bring a customer’s experience to life. It maps the front-of-house and behind the scene activities, roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in service delivery.
  • Service strategy: The service strategy guides the firm on delivering on the experience they want to create. It states how the firm will implement the service design and blueprint.

Create a service culture
By establishing a service culture, management creates an environment focused on client satisfaction, delivered consistently – time and time again. The concept of a service culture plays an important role in understanding how to deliver excellent service quality, as it captures what employees experience in terms of organisational practices regarding service delivery. It also influences employee motivation regarding service behaviour. If employees experience excellent service quality on the inside, they are more likely to be motivated to deliver excellent quality on the outside of the firm. Thus a strong service climate leads to service quality. How do you create a client centred culture?

  • Service policies and procedures: Establish clear policies and procedures guiding service delivery and service levels.
  • Client service training: Regularly engage in training to develop skills, discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions.

Create employment engagement
Engaged employees have bought into the mission, vision, values and procedures of the firm. Engaged staff will take responsibility for the clients’ experiences and wellbeing. How do firms create employment engagement?

  • Recruitment: Hire the right people – people who buy into your values. People with the right attitude.
  • Communication: Management must focus on communication to set expectations, get buy-in, inform, educate and get feedback from staff. When managers ensure that service constantly is communicated as a strategic imperative, employees are likely to perceive service to be important. As a result, their behaviours toward customers are likely to reflect their orientation towards service excellence.
  • Accountability: Keep staff accountable for excellent and poor service delivery. Celebrate wins, reprimand poor performance and reward exceptional service delivery.

Create and measure client experiences
The better a firm performs the more clients expect from you. A firm that excels at client service is managing client expectations (using strategically designed client service blueprints), continuously learning about clients’ expectations and delivering more. It is an ongoing effort, not a one-time event. How do firms do this?

  • Empowerment: Empowerment means providing employees with enough autonomy to allow them to handle unforeseen situations and challenges and let them be more self-sufficient in their work. Give their work meaning, and build confidence and competence.
  • Innovation: Continuously seek to improve service experiences and to find a better way to exceed expectations.
  • Conducting client satisfaction surveys: Conduct annual, online satisfaction surveys that measure service gaps and identify areas of improvement.

For more information contact Tobie vd Merwe at tobie@succeedgroup.co.za

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.