In my last post, I described the power of a great client experience. Today, I’d like to explore how a firm can move from thinking about client service to delivering a true client experience (CX). Once again, I’ve tapped Ryan Suydam*, Chief Experience Officer at Client Savvy, to provide his expert guidance along the way.

McDonald York Building Company, a construction firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina, is an example of a professional services firm that is doing client experience right. In fact, they have even branded their CX program, which they call MYWay®. The program consists of three core practices that affect clients at every point of the engagement:

  1. Continuous Innovation — a deep cultural commitment to finding better ways to deliver their services.
  2. Progressive Processes — their whole-hearted adoption of leading-edge processes, programs and standards, from safety to quality to sustainability.
  3. End-to-end Workflows — a customized approach to project delivery that builds on up-front data, careful cost controls and respect for the schedule. The firm is involved in every stage of a project, from pre-construction to post-construction services.

The MyWay program is designed to instill trust, foster collaboration and ensure that communication is rock solid from the very beginning of every engagement. In fact, these values are baked into the company’s DNA. According to Ryan, “Their new hires are vetted by MYWay. And it’s in their proposals, as well as in the field.”

But how can a firm like yours start building an extraordinary client experience? McDonaldYork started theirs in 2010. There’s no reason you can’t do the same today.

Perhaps the easiest way to begin thinking about your clients’ experience is to start at the end of the client journey, then design backwards. “If you can understand why your best clients continue to do business with you, you will have taken a giant first step,” says Ryan.

Any successful client experience program must be tied to real business objectives. At Client Savvy, for instance, Ryan’s team determined that their top business challenges were client acquisition and client retention. So they designed CX strategies to target those business functions.

“Now, we have a dashboard that shows how many active business problems we have documented for each client. If we ever see a zero on the board, we know the client has solved that problem (hooray!). But if we don’t discover what their next problem is and start helping them with that, they probably won’t stick around for long.”

Your CX strategy might be different. You might need to fuel your referral engine, enter new markets or reduce employee turnover. Once you determine your critical path, you need to attack it at two levels:

  1. Improving the client’s outcomes
  2. Motivating your employees to deliver on your promise

In the book Customer Experience 3.0, John Goodman lays out a four-part framework to ensure that CX “is designed into all organizational activities, resulting in a complete, consistent, continuously improving experience”:

  • Doing it right the first time
  • Encouraging easy access to service via effortless channels
  • Creating a complete customer service experience via every communication channel
  • Listening and learning by creating an effective voice of the customer process

This approach addresses the full cycle of a client’s interaction with your business — from setting initial expectations (articulating your promise) to delivering friction-free customer service to collecting feedback at the end of an engagement.

As for your employees, CX can’t be “just one more thing” they have to do. “It has to create meaningfully positive outcomes, quickly, for everyone involved,” says Ryan.

“Even before trying to lay out a CX strategy, just start talking about CX. Ask people in your organization to describe great customer experiences they had at a restaurant, while traveling or in a retail transaction. Look for objective lessons and discuss how you might apply those lessons to your firm. More than anything, having these discussions will get people motivated and excited about the changes to come.”

The good news is you don’t have to tackle client experience everywhere in your business at once. Uncover the worst pain points and start there. Keep your business goals firmly in sight. And most importantly, get your staff engaged in the process — because a great client experience always starts with them.

*Ryan Suydam is Chief Experience Officer at Client Savvy, where he helps professional services clients design and deliver an exceptional client experience. You can meet Ryan and learn more about client experience at the next CXps Conference.

Karl Feldman