Just as there is, more than ever, an economic imperative to ‘flush’ cash through, it is vital for firms of all sizes to ensure they are managing the front end of their pipeline. Technical expertise is only valuable as long as the fee earner is achieving sufficient client instructions – from new or existing clients.
The Ideal Client
Your ideal client will probably already be on your database. It may require some thought, but all key fee earners should identify their most valued clients. These are the people with whom you want to be deepening the business relationship. The questions you should be asking yourself are:
- What are their business needs?
- How can you best service their requirements?
- Who will best handle the relationship?
Leading the Initiative
It is important to recognise that not all clients will make it onto this list. Therefore, clients should be categorised into, broadly speaking, the ‘most valued clients’ (MVCs); ‘key clients’ (KCs); and all other valued clients (VCs). It should go without saying that service levels should be high for all clients, but those clients in the top two categories clearly need the most dedicated attention.
The client care initiative should be led from the top. Buy-in is needed at all levels to make sure fee-earners are clear about the business they want; how they select their clients; how they price the work; and, crucially, how well they know their clients. Once these points are established, the initiative can really get underway.
The answers to the questions above will naturally be different for each client, but having a clearly prioritised client list will make the process much more valuable. In brief, the criteria for identifying the top priority clients should involve opportunities for future business and referrals; the client’s success and growth potential; and the profile-raising power that the work brings to the firm.
The philosophy must always be to exceed client expectations. It may sound obvious, but ‘ticking the boxes’ simply isn’t enough. It is hard work, but once client care is firmly established as a conscious priority, you can begin really in-depth client profiling – to drive growth into areas of specific strength and business priority. This is an issue we will return to.