Does your firm having adding value to clients as a core objective? I’ll bet it does.
Does your firm really measure how it adds value to clients? I’ll bet it doesn’t.
Most firms ask their clients to rate overall value for money in their client listening research. To my mind this is a generic approach to assessing value and a major missed opportunity.
A new way
I think there would be significant benefit adding a section to your client feedback tools under the heading ‘Adding Value’. This section would be tailored for each client and it would ask the client to agree or disagree with a series statements as to how the firm has added value, or what difference it has made over the preceding period. This would not be merely a restatement of activity or inputs but rather outcomes achieved and real benefits delivered.
So, for example, this section might include statements like:
- Helped with the successful launch of new product XYZ and in creating 15% market awareness in 6 months.
- Improved consistency of safety incidence reporting contributing towards a 5% reduction in lost-time injuries.
- Reduced risk exposure to ABC claims from High to Moderate.
- Settled the MNO matter with a sum $1 million less than that provisioned.
- Realised incremental rental income of $500K through early project completion.
- Delivered tailored training program that contributed towards a 5% improvement in staff productivity.
- Helped with effective rollout of new corporate compliance program via dedicated secondee.
- Rejigged proposal templates and process leading to a 7.5% improvement in the bid-win rate.
The client respondent would also be asked to identify other things, big or small, that they felt have added value. They might list some valuable off-the-cuff advice provided for free or an introduction to a valuable business contact. This open-ended section would catch all the tangental things that the client perceives have been of benefit. Sometimes the smallest things can have the biggest impact.
Ideally this value added assessment should be part of a periodic relationship review conversation. It could be used in a quantitative survey but then you miss the opportunity to have a deep dive discussion into what value is and isn’t from the client perspective.
Communicating the benefit you deliver is essential in justifying the price you charge. The problem is that in many professional services value is in the eye of the beholder. If Perceived Value = Perceived Benefits – Perceived Costs, then it’s incumbent on the provider to work extra hard to communicate and amplify the perception of benefit. Getting their agreement or otherwise to a series of value-added statements makes the benefit more conscious and tangible. It also reveals what elements of your offering are more valuable than others.
Finding the words
Harry S Truman once stated, ”it is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit”. One of the challenges with this suggested approach is that the client may perceive the whole exercise as a kudos claiming exercise. They might think you’re trying to steal their thunder. I think this can be partly addressed by  explaining the rationale for the questions,  describing in detail the firm’s specific role in creating the outcome, or  using softer phrases like ‘contributed to’ or ‘helped with’. Having the statements as propositions that the client can agree and disagree with, also reduces the risk of coming across as too self-serving.
Identifying the outcomes achieved might be difficult if the service is purely a commodity or the firm’s service role is basic compliance. However, if your firm is a non-commodity player then the only reason for not doing this is laziness or a lack of creativity.
Call to action
One simple next step is to pick a key client of the firm you have a good relationship with. Write down a series of draft value added statements and ask your client which ones they support, which they don’t and which ones are missing. I bet you’ll both find the conversation fascinating and value-adding in so many ways.