Like most things, client/advisor relationships are a product of evolution. In prior centuries, terms were loosely defined by little more than a promise and a handshake. Over time, we developed the formal engagement process of today, with RFPs, proposals, pitches, references, SOWs, and engagement letters that cover everything from scope to terms of payment to termination to limitation of liabilities to GDPR compliance. With so much procedure in place, you would think that client relationships would operate more smoothly. But according to surveys from BTI Consulting, over 50% of Fortune 1000 companies report that their firms meet only the minimum requirements for client satisfaction. One of the reasons for this disconnect with our clients may have to do with our failure to establish expectations at the outset of the relationship.
If you find that any aspect of your client relationships is subpar, consider revising the expectations you established during your intake and/or engagement letter:
- Communication: How often do they want you to check in with them and what forum do they prefer? (e.g., email, text, or a face-to-face PowerPoint presentation?)
- Client feedback: How will you ensure that they are consistently happy with your services? (If you wait until they complain, it's already too late.)
- Referrals: What are your expectations regarding your clients' mindfulness in promoting and endorsing your services? Certainly, this is not an enforceable component to the relationship, but it's a good idea to let clients know that you welcome their help in growing your practice should the appropriate opportunity present itself. The right clients will look out for their favorite advisors’ interests, especially when the behavior has already been modeled for them.
Remember, the only way to improve client loyalty is to consistently satisfy their expectations. So, re-examine your intake and engagement process such that it sets both parties up for success.
Authored by David Ackert