Everyone in business knows the adage of "Make it easy for the customer to buy," but what are some good ways to do this for a professional services practice?
There have been a lot of questions about differentiation and marketing these days, so I won't address the traditional ways to increase attractiveness in favor of one I think most of us forget about: the UI (user interface). Let's assume you are already price-competitive (so you can take cost out of the equation), your administrative processes are streamlined (so client administrators are happy to do business with you) and your reputation is well established (so trust is not an issue). Your goal for you UI is to make the day to day transactions a pleasure, a notably seamless and impressive experience for each client.
Here is a framework for developing a great consultant UI (your clients’ and your own styles dictate your implementation):
- Be familiar - You are often a new entity (even if you have worked together before, not all staff will know you) so make the effort to understand the client's current language, systems and constructs and align your systems accordingly.
- Be clear - Clients may know you and your ways of doing business but once you get rolling in the engagement, it is easy to slip back into consultant-speak. Push for unambiguous language and concepts and make it intuitive how to transact business with you, even if it means publishing resource guides on your website.
- Be predictable - Check to be sure that client assumptions and their resulting actions in dealing with you are indeed seamless and provide for feedback. Confirm the predictability of the client's experience dealing with you and your staff by asking them directly.
- Be safe - Make your client-facing systems fault tolerant and failure resistant. The client should not feel at risk when allowing you access to their physical space or information systems, which you can show by having written risk management protocols (that don't have to be complicated).
- Be efficient - Clients hired you to reduce time, cost and risk, so don't impose those on them merely to satisfy your own desire to reduce the same for yourself.
There is far more to say about developing these principles of good consultant UI. Take the initiative to develop one or more of these concepts further. Share your ideas with your colleagues, write about them in your blog or author a paper. Contributing to the knowledge base and practice of management consulting is a core attribute of professionalism.© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA