Your consulting firm can be like the local bistro that produces high-quality meals and has a solid base of loyal customers. On the other hand, your consulting firm could be akin to a Michelin-starred purveyor of dining experiences that attracts customers from near and far to pay outrageous sums then rave about the experience.
The best restaurants in the world offer imaginative culinary fare, perfectly prepared and beautifully plated.* The service is impeccable and the wine list is superb. The very best restaurants in the world offer something more:
Unexpected touches that raise the experience well past customers’ expectations.
Not more food; rather, the extraordinary garnish, the “bonus” palate cleanser, the extra attention from the wait staff, the ingredient specially sourced for you, the post-meal tour of the kitchen.
Consulting is similar. The perceived value of your consulting firm’s work is a combination of the results you deliver and your clients’ experience of working with you.
With a little bit of thought and effort, your consulting firm can develop processes that ensure your clients receive a good client experience.
But you can do even better. Your consulting firm will stand out from the pack and win fans who actively refer you to others when your clients experience little, unexpected wins during engagements.
5 Ways Your Consulting Firm Can Unexpectedly Delight Clients
Measure and point to unexpected benefits as they arise during your consulting project. They don’t have to be huge impact or central to your project to create a lasting boost to the perception of your consulting firm.
Invite your client to participate and contribute in areas of the project that weren’t specified in the project plan. Keep in mind that clients (over) value anything they have a hand in constructing.*
When you invite them to a “behind the scenes” work session or ask for their opinion on some work in progress, your clients feel like part of your consulting team and their emotional connection with your consulting firm lifts a couple of notches.
Think on your clients’ behalf and present them with ideas, options, opportunities and solutions they were blind to.
If you want your clients to consider your consulting firm a partner rather than a vendor, then act like a partner. Don’t restrict your thinking to the topics and tasks for which they’ve hired your consulting firm. Consider what you would do in their shoes and what they’re missing amidst the heat and smoke of daily firefighting.
A spoonful of personal attention and caring lingers a long time in your clients’ memory.
When you build a personal relationship with your clients, they reveal that their child graduated, their dog had puppies or they successfully ran two miles that morning. Pay attention, the go the extra inch (not mile). Send a congratulations card, overnight a frame for cute puppy photos, or give a couple of months subscription to a running app.
Demonstrate that you were listening and, even more, that your clients lives are important to you and your consulting firm.
Along that same lines, sending impromptu gratefulness and (sincere) praise to your clients will endear your firm to them.
Responsiveness rules in consulting. Ideally, your consulting firm has a policy of quickly turning around any inquiries from clients and prospects. Whatever your policy is, beat it.
Communicate faster than your clients expect. Communicate more often than your clients expect. (Don’t communicate more volume of information than your clients expect—unnecessarily detailed information doesn’t delight clients.)
Importantly, creating unexpected wins for your clients does not require substantially more work for your consulting firm. It’s not scope creep. More food on the plate doesn’t win a restaurant rave reviews. Better service and unexpected pleasures do.
The list above barely scratches the surface on ways you can delight your consulting firm’s clients by surprising them. What are some other ideas for accomplishing this goal?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Producing results and delivering a bad experience ensures that you’ll have a one-time transaction. Producing results and delivering an extraordinary experience is the start of a long-term relationship. One of the ways I like to provide a great experience is right at the beginning of an engagement. I have a conversation that goes like this: let’s assume we deliver the results as promised what else has to happen to have you thrilled with your decision to hire us? I then probe and ask questions as needed. This accomplishes two things, first, it gives me a roadmap to success and second, it makes the client feel it is about her and not just the results. Sounds like Right Side Up Thinking!!
That’s excellent advice, Michael. Your Right-Side Up question works very well at the start of the engagement AND throughout. At virtually every meeting you have with a client you can ask what will make them delighted with that meeting or thrilled with the outcome. Clients won’t complain about you attending to them and delivering a great experience!
Thank you for posting your wisdom, Michael
I ask a similar vein of questions as Michael. I find out if they have worked with external consultants before and ask them to tell me how the experience went. What impressed them? What would they like to have seen different? It gives me a lens into their hot buttons before we begin working together. how their experience went.
Very smart approach, Debbie. Drilling down on their past experience with consultants is a savvy way to find out what will make your clients happy and also what triggers discontent. Thank you for contributing that nugget!