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How to turn valued customers into trusted, long-term partners

In order to win the professional services game, you must master experience management

How to turn valued customers into trusted, long-term partners

Midsize professional services firms are beginning to realize that organic growth through word of mouth is no longer enough to build and protect their client base. Thanks to rising commoditization, availability of digital services, and advances in automation, clients insist that their chosen providers put them in the center of everything they do.

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Capturing the attention of this high-growth market requires significantly more than having a deep supply of top talent who can deliver “superb” services at a competitive price. In fact, according to the IDC InfoBrief, “Becoming a Best-Run Professional Services Company: How Growing Midsize Firms Use Technology and Innovation to Succeed,” surveyed executives viewed a focus on the customer and the introduction of new business models as their top priorities.

This finding from IDC reminds professional-services firms of the importance of experience management. By being more proactive and strategic in this area, the best-run professional-services firms are not only delivering reliable outcomes, but also giving customers value-driven advantages that lead to trusted, long-term partnerships.

UNDERSTANDING THE EXPERIENCE IS A GAME CHANGER

The latest shifts in client expectation is rendering useless the traditional model of measuring client satisfaction after the engagement is complete and the last invoice is sent. This approach never provided the early-warning signs they need to know if a customer relationship is on track or beginning to sour.

Firms need to understand whether their overall brand reputation is potentially eroding their opportunity pipeline. A great way to gauge brand reputation is to leverage “listening posts” with social media to track and analyze brand sentiment on a timely basis. In addition, firms can gain further insight into the client experience by capturing the feedback of employees actively working on engagements and delivering on expected outcomes.

For those reasons and many more, embracing experience management is a critical measure that all professional-services firms need to address. Firms that identify and understand their clients’ needs and experiences in real time can tailor unique solutions and skill sets that deliver timely and relevant business outcomes. The IDC InfoBrief cites such personalization of services as a driving factor in the success of digital startups that are surpassing incumbent competitors.

TALENT MATTERS

Another critical component of the client experience is the sentiment and needs of the talent executing the engagement. The quality of human interactions considerably influences whether both employees and clients remain loyal. By establishing internal “listening posts” to monitor those experiences in real time, firms can design the framework of an engagement to ensure projects stay healthy and client needs are being met.

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When talent—full-time equivalent as well as contingent—feel supported by unobstructed insight, relevant training, and seamless collaboration across platforms, they are more likely equipped to deliver on the full promises of the engagement. In other words, when employees are happy, clients are happy, and vice versa.

By gauging both the client and employee experience, midsize professional-services firms can clearly understand the thoughts and emotions of the people involved in engagements (also known as X-data). By combining this information with hard operational numbers (or O-data, such as profit, costs, and timeliness of services delivered), midsize firms will have a direct call to action to more effectively address issues before they become a problem.

Experience management provides a powerful combination of insight to midsize professional services firms. Every engagement can be navigated with a foundation of facts and empathy—ensuring that every interaction is considerate and responsive to the needs of the client. And most important, firms can capitalize on any changes in the client base and workforce to prove their value and ensure long-term partnership and loyalty.


To learn more, check out the SAP-sponsored IDC InfoBrief  “Becoming a Best-Run Professional Services Company: How Growing Midsize Firms Use Technology and Innovation to Succeed.”


Michael Liss is Vice President, Professional Services Industry Business Unit at SAP.

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