Yo-yo value perceptions and an addiction to pies
Thursday 7th Sep, 2017
By Alison Huntington.
“KEVIN LOST 40 LBS IN 8 WEEKS BY DRINKING OUR EXPENSIVE MEAL-REPLACEMENT SHAKES. YOU COULD BE LIKE KEVIN—SLIMMED DOWN AND TONED UP. CALL US NOW ON 0800....”
Short-term effort, huge return; it’s simple right? Except that fast-forward a few months, and Kevin is back to his original gargantuan size, weeping into empty Hershey’s wrappers.
Sometimes I worry that some of the advice I give out to consulting firms about changing clients’ perceptions risks creating some Kevins (albeit suited and well-remunerated ones).
Our research has long documented that while clients are broadly satisfied with the quality of the work consultants do, far fewer speak positively about the value their work adds. While two-thirds of clients describe the quality of consulting work as either “high” or “very high” generally, only 37% think that it adds any value in excess of the fees the consultants charge.
One reason for such a difference in opinion is consultants’ faulty assumption that doing a good job speaks for itself—that high quality consulting work doesn’t need an explanation of the value it adds. Consultants are notoriously bad at articulating the value of their work, so one of the actions we frequently recommend to firms is simply to talk about it more with their clients.
There’s evidence that it works. We’ve seen some of the firms we track in our Client Perception Programme (without naming names) shoot up the ranking for the value they add as a result of a concerted and coordinated effort to get their consultants talking about the value of their work. They didn’t do anything else differently—they turned up, delivered to the same standard as usual—but they did make a conscious effort to articulate the value of their work to clients before, during, and after the engagements.
The problem is, they then slip back down again the following year. Much like Kevin’s restricted diet and intense workout schedule, making a short-term change—talking about value more—isn’t on its own enough to sustain a true change in clients’ perceptions. To really shift clients’ opinions about a firm, it requires much more hard work: really understanding what value means to clients, embedding good habits in consultants of all grades, getting everyone aligned behind a clear value proposition… Or in Kevin’s case, staying off the pies and learning to love lettuce. But when your firm is growing nicely, the projects are flowing in, and revenues are eclipsing previous years’, the lettuce really doesn’t seem all that appealing—or necessary.