A recent post by Micah Solomon in Forbes on 10 trends in client service expectations (my paraphrasing of his title) caught my eye. When I taught industrial, aka B2B, marketing at Melbourne Business School the doctrine was consumer buying behaviour and B2B buyer behaviour are quite distinct in most respects.
That’s still true, but not nearly to the same extent as Beaton’s decade-long research on professional services firms shows.
These 10 trends in client service expectations are nearly as true for clients as they are for consumers as Micah Solomon described. And, as Beaton’s research shows, where there are differences they are at the margin. In other words, the B2B clients of professional services firms are becoming more like consumers as every year passes. Understanding these trends in client service expectations is now mandatory for professional practitioners to succeed in a hyper-competitive world.
Paraphrasing Solomon again: “The essential principles of client service are timeless, the stuff of ancient Greeks. Yet one of these timeless principles is ‘know your clients,’ meaning you’d best stay on your toes or the ever-changing procurement behaviour of your clients will leave you behind.”
Here are the 10 trends in client service expectations; trends that should be influencing how you’re doing designing your offer, delivering your service, training your staff, and regularly monitoring your clients’ satisfaction. I have paraphrased – and gratefully acknowledge Micah Solomon and show direct quotes from him in parentheses. He’s nailed it as Beaton’s research shows.
10 trends in client service expectations
Clients’ definition of what’s fast and what’s not grows more extreme by the day, well almost. An escalating expectation of timeliness doesn’t just apply to product and services delivery. It applies to the speed of response they expect from you to any issue they have or query they send your way. Responsiveness rates very high in Beaton’s driver analysis of what’s influences clients’ overall service experience.
Clients expect accuracy: “Typos are no longer acceptable in a cut and paste world.” However…
Clients are more willing than ever to assist you (“or, I suppose, assist themselves”), participating in the service process. As one of our
global law firm clients put it the other day: ‘The best clients are generous; they know how to get the best out of us.’
Clients expect extended hours: 24/7 or as close as you can get when a project is running hot. This extra mile is still a differentiator.
Clients expect “just about everything to come with a money back guarantee, implied or explicit”. This is not (yet) wide-spread. But ever since David Maister (20+ years ago) popularised the idea of “full satisfaction, or only pay what you think it’s worth” others have been following. Look no further than Richard Burcher – the world’s leading authority on law firm pricing – for a fine example of practising what he preaches.
Clients don’t want to pay for extras, like minor disbursements, or other “hidden fees”.
Clients expect “omni-channel integration”. This means clients want service delivered in the manner that suits them and that is most cost-effective. For example, why fly when Webex or Skype are perfectly fit-for-purpose?
Clients expect you to be “monitoring their communications, complaints, and compliments – and bending over backward to respond both quickly and thoroughly”. Is your firm truly tracking what clients think – and how they feel?
Clients “dislike overly scripted service”. Our research shows clients place great store on ‘caring’, or as the author describes it “authenticity”.
Clients feel empowered. The shift to a buyers’ market in the last 10 years means that clients are now truly sovereign. As I described in my Ides of Maturity post, clients now have the power, information asymmetry is a phenomenon of the past, prices are falling – and clients know it.
If you enjoyed this post, then you may also want to read these:
+ Selling professional services: Damned if you do – Damned if you don’t
+ Price is positively correlated with the value perceived by clients
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This post was written by George Beaton, a director of Beaton Capital and Beaton Research + Consulting.