Client centricity, as clients see it
Thursday 29th Jun, 2017
By Fiona Czerniawska.
There’s a lot of talk about client centricity in the consulting industry–and rightly so. Consulting firms may be brimming over with transformation opportunities, new technology solutions, platforms and the like, but it always behoves us to remember that clients, not consultants, are in the driving seat.
With that in mind, we asked some clients what client-centric consulting would mean to them. For the CFO of a major mobile phone operator, client centricity was all about a firm’s ability to provide consistent support across a wide range of geographies; to be a single phone call away, and always responsive when he asks for help. For the strategy director of one of the world’s biggest retailers, it’s all about flexibility and price: consultants help plug gaps in her organisation at short notice, but they shouldn’t use urgency as an excuse to put up their prices. For the customer services executive of an airline, it’s about the balance between openness and ease of working together, with an unwillingness to compromise on objectivity and expertise.
Two things are striking from all this.
The first is how different people’s definition of client centricity is. It’s tempting–for obvious, self-interested reasons–for consulting firms to treat client centricity as one thing. A single, shining solution that can be replicated across its entire client base may be hard to design, but it’s easy to scale. By contrast, genuine client centricity starts with assuming that every organisation is different. Time needs to be spent working out what an organisation needs, rather than what a consulting firm is prepared to give it.
If that makes it sound as though client centricity is impossible, except perhaps for the smallest number of most important accounts, then we should take heart from my second point. The views about client centricity quoted above don’t just come out of the blue: look carefully and you’ll see that each captures something of the culture of the organisation where the speaker works. The mobile phone executive is worried about cross-border coverage and quality of service; the retailer about prices; the airline about the daily challenge of delivering what its customers want while under huge cost and regulatory pressures. In other words, clients expect their suppliers to treat them in the same way they, the client, treats their customers.
Customer centricity may be complex, but it’s not random. If you want to know how clients want consulting firms to serve them, first try and understand how those same clients serve their own customers.