In Today’s Q&A on Research.Reveal, George Beaton talks with Jon Huxley, General Manager Business Development at Beca, on how his firm is designing and executing its CX in the era of buyer power. Jon’s insights on value-creation and the relationship between client-firm engagement and culture, while based on Beca’s project delivery, advisory and technology services practice, have wide applicability in all professional services.
This is part of an ongoing series exploring how professional services firms are future-proofing and innovating their firms.
Jon, thank you for sharing your thoughts with subscribers to beaton's Research.Reveal. blog.
Q: Most observers regard the outlook for professional services firms as one characterised by ever-increasing buyer power for clients and hyper-competition amongst firms. Generally, how does Beca see the next 5 or so years in these respects? In particular, where are the opportunities, as opposed to the threats?
A: Certainly, we envisage that several of our markets will continue to become more competitive, but in any competitive scenario, the ability to add real value and support outcomes that are tangibly better than alternatives will still enable those with the ideas, commitment and talent to win and deliver. We are always looking for opportunities for our clients, as well as ourselves, and are working on a range of new technologies, systems and approaches to ensure we, and our clients, maintain a competitive edge. Our purpose is ‘make every day better’ and we try to ensure our clients and our people experience that in reality.
Comment: In his answer, I note Jon’s reference, amongst many, to two key ideas. First, the service-profit chain where how the people of Beca feel about the workplace is intended to reflect in their clients’ CX. This is a timeless idea in every firm can do better, every day. Second, Jon stresses that adding ‘real’ value is what differentiates Beca. Which raises the $1M question: how do clients perceive value and how can firms measure it.
Q: These days, most firms have ‘brick-walling’ initiatives for each of their key clients. In your opinion, what are the keys the success of these programmes?
A: Beca has programmes in place to focus on our key clients and markets - we don’t call them brick walling though. Instead we focus on ensuring we have the right people with the right amount of time, expertise and approach to be successful on behalf of a client. That’s very much a cultural piece. Of course we work hard on the mechanics of this as well, with robust CRM plans, and market segment research and depth that really benefits our clients. As a business we review our people/culture area almost constantly because where we have the right people leading a market or client we find that the more measurable stuff like KPIs looks after themselves.
Comment: Touché Jon, point taken about using the term ‘brick-walling’. Jon goes on to explain the relationship between technology and his firm’s culture in his next answer.
Q: Technologies like cloud-based CRM are increasingly used by many, but not all firms. How do you envisage the future role of technology in CRM and BD?
A: Technology systems are part of the client experience as an enabler. A quality suite of sales and marketing systems, whether cloud-based or not, is important for any organisation and particularly one with scale. But what drives success in CRM and BD activity is back to the people and the culture. Yes, the client-facing people need to be enabled by quality systems, but the systems are not the panacea. Our focus on client experience is the conversation we want to have with a technology provider and that encompasses people, culture, process as well as systems.
Comment: Bravo Jon! Published earlier this year, beaton’s proprietary research on how clients of professional services firms perceive innovation shows unequivocally – and not surprisingly – that clients value the benefits of technology, not the gee-whiz behind the wall.
Q: Perhaps the biggest challenge is the ‘up-close-and-personal’ one of continuously improving the so-called soft skills of all client-facing professionals. To what extent do you agree with this statement – and what’s Beca’s approach? Have you discovered the ‘secret sauce’?
A: Agreed. It’s the obvious source of differentiation in a business where people are the conduit. As we speak we are investing in that area in a very deliberate way. I couldn’t say whether we have discovered the secret sauce, but we are making progress with a tailored programme across Beca which enhances our skills and approach around understanding our clients’ business in a much deeper way. Delivering value to the client in every interaction from the big project deliverable right down to the smallest of emails. Our programme has been designed with client value at its core. Is that secret sauce? Not sure. It’s certainly not secret now that I’ve told you about it George!
Comment: Your description of what Beca is doing reminds me of Dr Mosie Suzman, one of my Wits medical school teachers who inspired me. Dr Suzman’s had many aphorisms, of which this was a favourite “The basics usually make the biggest difference, yet they are hardest things to get right”.
This has been a most energising conversation; thank you Jon!
In coming months Today’s Q&A on Research.Reveal. will feature the views of other prominent thought-leaders from a cross-section of professional services firms. Each will be asked to explore their views in areas of strategic interest. This month we focus on how they are future-proofing their firms and engaging in innovation.