I don't think consultants do their clients a service by becoming chummy with them. I even know many clients consider this an attempt by consultants to "go native" and settle in for a long stay, but I just think it is unprofessional. Shouldn't we just go in and get the job done?
As with many consulting challenges, the answer is: it depends. We consider "bedside manner" important in some professions, like medical treatment or social work, and not in others, like auto repair and mining. The difference is the role of the provider in helping the purchaser or consumer better understand, accept or transact the service or product. Some people don't want or need any help. I might want a skilled surgeon to remove my gall bladder and I am paying for a procedure and could care less about making friends. Alternatively, for a life-threatening condition, I might consider procedural and emotional factors equally and may even want to include my family in this need for emotional service, making bedside manner a critical decision point in selecting a provider.
It is about the emotional component of the engagement. A divorce lawyer needs skills but possibly the more important service is emotional care through the change process. A consultant's bedside manner can be just as important. Consider that clients only hired you because the organizational change process was long, complicated and difficult. You know how hard (if not impossible) it is to effectively change an organization without adequate emotional and cultural preparation. Tip:
The emotional mechanisms needed to communicate, understand and accept change may differ significantly for each of your clients, even within the same industry. If you are not spending significant time understanding these factors, then you are not doing your job as a professional or change agent. Even if you are providing a commoditized service (e.g., diagnostic survey or workshop), consider the emotional care required for effectiveness before you dismiss your service as "just technical." © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA