Want your people to be more client focused? Time for a new approach!

Want your people to be more client focused? Time for a new approach!

Earlier this month we were invited to speak to an audience of senior professionals at the Accelerate conference (a community of relationship-focused, technology-driven, value-based accounting firms) in Leeds.

When we initially started to explore the need and think about content, the clear message was about helping the member firms develop more of an advisery approach. Given the work we do in the marketplace on driving change and talking to clients, we know that this is a key priority for a lot of firms – enabling technical specialists to ‘widen’ their perspective when thinking about, and interacting with, clients and prospects. We met with a senior partner a few days ago who was concerned that her firm’s clear focus on ‘excellence in client service’ did not reconcile with an apparent absence of a good understanding of client markets and issues within the sector.

With the advancement in all things ‘tech’, we know it is now more important than ever to invest in those key human areas such as curiosity, emotional intelligence, building trust and relationships, active listening and assertiveness. With AI and technology already performing much of the traditional accounting ‘work’, the way that professionals will continue to add value will be through the quality of their interactions and their ability to contextualise information and explain its importance to clients.

Back to the conference gig. Usually in such situations we deliver a key-note covering the steps to developing key skills, behaviours, mind sets and the simple tools required to help transition from ‘specialist’ towards adviser.

It was so refreshing to hear that Accelerate didn’t want that! Instead of a ‘tell session’ about how to enable people to do things differently…. they wanted time to focus on their own firms and how they could shape their CULTURE to drive an advisery approach.

This was music to our ears. A clear message that we always give to clients is that ‘learning and development is a complete waste of money… unless people are incentivised, motivated, driven and supported to embed their learning, implement the new skills and ‘act’ the new behaviours’.

We call this the ‘LOCK-IN’ process – ensuring that systems, processes and measures are aligned with the ‘change’ that the learning intervention is covering. This means that culture is being adapted – creating a new ‘way of doing things around here’.

Our session then became a three-hour culture change workshop. It demanded deep thinking, honesty and open-minds. We followed a simple 4 stage process.

  1. Define the ‘what is’. We used the Johnson and Scholes cultural web model so that every firm in the room could create a picture of their current culture
  1. Create a picture of ‘what could be’. This meant defining what an advisery led, client centric approach actually means, what they would want people to be ‘doing’ differently, how they would want the firm to be seen differently, how it could be ‘set up’ differently. We asked firms to identify the one thing that, if changed, would have most impact on creating their culture and develop the ‘what could be’ in future.
  1. We firmly believe that measures drive behaviour…so we then challenged delegates to think about the kind of metrics and KPIs that could be introduced that would push (or pull) people to think and behave in a real client-centric way. These future KPIs must be tangible enough so that a firm wide bonus scheme could be delivered based on such KPIs. It has to be ‘more than a feeling’ that we are ‘more client focused’
  1. The key – committing to the actions that will be taken back at the ‘ranch’.

Conference Facilitation

From our perspective, it was fantastic to see a group of firms open themselves up to a tough (and often painful) session working ON their business, and demonstrate a real appetite (and take responsibility) for change towards maximising the value they provide for their clients.

We are confident action will be taken because many in the group asked for worksheets that could be taken back to their offices to drive their own in house sessions to look at culture and how to change the focus towards great advisers rather than great accountants.

One final point. The room raised the question about client surveys – are they valuable? The answer is an emphatic yes! But you need to ask the right questions. Asking: Do we deliver great service as your accountants? Will get a radically different answer to: One a scale of 1-10 how much has our advice helped and supported you achieving your business growth and ambitions this year?

If you would like to discuss how we could help your firm to develop effective client advisers and a client-centric culture, please email Kate or contact us here to arrange a meeting with one of our expert consultants. No charge, just coffee will be fine!

theGrogroup are experts in advising organisations on how best to improve performance by effectively executing and embedding required change. We do this through our proven framework; clarifying strategy and change needs, enabling people through skills, behaviours and mindset development and creating the systems, processes and infrastructure to lock in change as the new normal.