As the world navigates the coronavirus downturn, management consultant Jon Huxley finds he is often asked the same question, how should the legal profession respond?
“I acknowledge these are difficult times for many firms and their clients,” said Jon, Director of the Business of Trust and Partner at beaton. “My view is simple: keep focused on the fundamentals. Fundamentals that were important before COVID-19 remain such now.”
Jon helps professional services teams grow their business by developing client-centric relationships.
“Being client-centric is what builds trust and therefore retains and grows client relationships,” said Jon. “But here’s the challenge; every firm says they are client-centric but research confirms that some are not.
“What does being client-centric actually mean? Showing genuine empathy and curiosity for your client as a business and as a human being, offering insights and help free of charge, not being pushy or too ‘salesy’ as no client wants to feel ‘sold to’ - especially not at the moment - and finally, focusing on the overall experience your client has with you and your firm. At every interaction your client has with you, are you adding value to them, are you reliable, easy to work with, and fully aware of their needs?”
According to Jon, these fundamentals critical before COVID-19 are more imperative than ever.
Leading client experience (CX) through culture
In Jon’s experience, the firms and teams which succeed at client experience (‘CX’) approach it as a question of evolving firm-wide culture.
“Excellent CX is about ‘how we do things around here,’” said Jon. “From the top-down, CX pervades the organisation and is seen as an equal priority alongside employee experience (EX). It goes without saying that good EX leads to good CX and vice versa. Achieving that culture can be tackled in a number of ways and doesn’t happen overnight.”
Central to developing better CX are changes to skill, mindset, and behaviours.
“Does everyone in the firm have clarity of what is CX, why it’s important in their role, and what skills and behaviours are needed to be successful at CX?” asked Jon.
Another aspect is metrics and measurement.
“Do you have robust and frequent client satisfaction measurements coming into the business that leadership gives consistent focus?” asked Jon. “Not occasional feedback from a few matters or clients and not a few anecdotes we learned over coffee. Not an attitude that ‘clients will let us know if there is a problem!; If you measure EX in your firm, do you also measure CX?”
Finally, communications and accountability are key.
“Are communications across the business frequent and impactful such that CX remains top of mind?” asked Jon. “Are successes celebrated and issues resolved quickly? Is everyone held to account for high standards of CX?”
Human to Human, not B2B
While professional services are often regarded as part of the business-to-business (‘B2B’) sector, Jon thinks this is a misnomer.
“I prefer ‘H2H’ or human to human,” explained Jon. “Much of the work I do is breaking down what trust is, why it is important in an H2H personal or professional relationship, and how to build it. This is as much about mindset as it is skills and behaviours. It’s about developing the mindset of, “I am interested in my client as a human being, I want to learn about her and want to help her with her ambitions or challenges,’ as opposed to “I want to sell my client some services.”
“Adopting this mindset and then executing on it with the right skills and behaviours will build trust and will mean your client wants to work with you more compared to your competition.”
This approach is relevant across the organisation, not merely to senior management.
“Building trust and having the mindset and skills to do so is critical from graduates to partners and everyone in between,” said Jon. “As a graduate, you want to be trusted by clients and colleagues, who you should regard as internal clients.
“Progression in the firm can be assisted hugely by colleagues trusting you to deliver, being able to rely on you for ideas and insights and then ultimately wanting you in their team. For a graduate with six months experience, the ways to achieve that trust are not really very different from a Partner who is forming a high trust relationship with a CEO or a General Counsel.”
Shift mindsets, build trust
The upshot of taking such a client-centric approach is greater job satisfaction - for both Jon and the organisations he helps.
“I love the work I do with both beaton and The Business of Trust,” said Jon. “My work at beaton gives me highly credible tools and many years of client evidence so I can say, ‘Don’t just take my word for it, listen to what the client research is telling you.’
“I’m enjoying working with a variety of professional services clients who really want to differentiate through their people and through the client experience.”
The training and coaching work Jon does as part of the Business of Trust is a critical part of this differentiation.
“Building trust with clients does make your clients come back for more,” said Jon. “I help to break down what the tangible skills and mindset shifts are needed to achieve trust.
“Breakthrough moments definitely make it worthwhile,” said Jon. “The moment, four weeks after a coaching session, when someone emails me to say they have opened up new relationships that they have struggled with previously or they have won a piece of work from a client that had never worked with them before. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning!”