Client Experience in Consulting Engineering: A major opportunity, especially now

Two weeks ago, beaton shared our latest data-driven insights into the ROI opportunities for professional services firms investing in Client eXperience (CX) programs.

This data was sourced from our latest beatoncompass CX in Professional Services reports. These are now available for Accounting, Built Environment and Consulting Engineering (‘CE’) and Legal services.

We said that the report “provides unequivocally clear evidence that increasing Excellent CX and avoiding Poor CX supports profitable growth.” We would now add that the findings of this research have become even more relevant since the advent of Covid-19 – how are you preparing to still be there when clients can start projects again?

This chart summarises one of the most important findings, namely the likelihood of buying additional services more than triples when CX is rated Excellent compared with when it’s rated Poor. In short, if clients have a positive experience with your firm, they are more likely to want to deal with you again and again.

Building on these findings, we draw on the experience of Jon Huxley, beaton's NZ-based partner, and share some of the actionable insights for CE. Jon’s background is CE and having spent 6 years leading Business Development in Beca he is well qualified and passionate about CX. In fact, before he joined beaton, we interviewed Jon in this Q&A!

While sometimes we find there to be few differences, if any, between the professions we track in our research (i.e. a client is a client is a client), occasionally there are marked differences and there are valuable insights unique to CE.

In this post we share three such insights, which we believe are more relevant today and in the coming weeks than ever before. Many clients are already highly stressed. How can CE firms play their part and deliver experiences that do not add to that?

Insight #1 – CE firms start from behind

  • 26% of CE clients report a “bad client experience” compared to 11% and 12% in Law and Accounting, respectively.

  • While over half of Law and Accounting clients rated their experience a 9 or 10 out of 10, only 29% of CE client’s felt the same way.

We see big opportunities for those firms who see this data as an opportunity to differentiate. Savvy firms recognise that they must…

…differentiate not just what they do but also how they do it.

So, in your firm, what are you doing to move the blue purple clients to violet and the violet clients to green? The research shows that green clients are more likely to

  1. Buy more services from you

  2. Pay a premium price

  3. Refer you to others. Free marketing!

Insight #2 – The greatest area for improvement is the 'Ongoing relationship' phase of the client journey

Our research breaks down 'the client journey' into four phases, in each of which clients were asked about their CX. The Four Os of the CX Cycle are:

  1. Onboarding and scoping

  2. Operational and main work

  3. Outcome / deliverable

  4. Ongoing relationship.

It is perhaps unsurprising to learn that the best part of the journey for client is during the Outcome/deliverable phase. This chart shows that all three professions fall away in 'Ongoing relationship'. This is particularly true for CE with 6.3. And it's from a considerably lower starting point, namely 7.2 in the first three phases for CE, compared to 8.2 to 8.6 in the other two professions.

As a firm are you:

  • Clear and transparent about who is accountable for ongoing management of your key client relationships?

  • Giving those individuals the time, leadership support, mindset and skills to manage those relationships, so that the equivalent red line for your firm is not dipping south like the one in the chart above?

In the current environment where some clients will be feeling tremendous pressure, such as the cutting of capex budgets and facing project delays, this phase is now incredibly important. Are you:

  • In frequent and regular contact with key clients so they feel important and supported?

  • Looking to help in any way possible so they feel you are invested in them?

Or are you:

  • A 'fair-weather friend' who will be ready to meet once the client is ready to spend money again?

Insight #3: The role of emotions in CX

Across all of professional services we measured, we found that emotions play a substantial and statistically significant role in predicting CX.

Given the current environment, and the stress and anxiety your clients must be feeling (many firms may be feeling this themselves!), what are you doing as a firm to alleviate them of these emotions?

Our research shows there are many areas in which firms can help, putting themselves in high regard for when the pandemic passes.

Only a third of respondents rated CE firms at 9 or 10 out of 10 for:

  • Proactive / responsive communication

Only a fifth gave a 9 or 10 rating for:

  • Providing ideas and updates affecting your business and industry

And, only a tenth gave a 9 or 10 score for:

  • Introducing other business experts to assist you.

On every one of these attributes, Law and Accounting exceeded CE by 15 percentage points or more! This shows what's achievable – and the size of the prize available to CE firms that put their backs in improving CX.

What now?

These three insight are a small selection of interactions and touch points that were rated by clients like yours.

This post unequivocally demonstrates that CX is – or should be – a key strategic consideration for firms and that there are tangible activities in which CE firms can engage to drive CX.

Practitioners and firms that embrace that mindset and focus on CX will stand out from their competitors in the long term and especially in the short term through Covid-19. They will triumph with loyal, profitable clients willing to share more of their business with them.

More information about the CX Report can be found here. If you want to start a conversation about your firm’s CX program or any of the above, contact a beaton partner.