In previous posts we touched on how much we love building strategic relationships with our clients. Our aim has always been to provide more than what is expected. Besides being a far more enjoyable interaction, it just makes good business sense. Genuinely happy clients will be far greater advertisers of your business than any medium could possibly replicate.
But more than this, your clients are a great source of education and information. Listen and learn. As the old saying goes, we have two ears and only one mouth. Use them in proportion! Over the years, we’ve learnt some valuable lessons from our clients about how they run and grow their businesses. Here are just a few we’d like to share.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that your happy clients are your best asset – the small amount of time taken to nurture and value a client will be paid back in spades.
Refer your clients to potential partners and potential customers where appropriate. This demonstrates your trust in their abilities and builds a deeper, more beneficial relationship. Some PI Firms often think that achieving a good settlement for a client is enough. But adding that little extra touch can be very rewarding – do you send your client a card and flowers when a particularly harrowing matter is over? Does your Managing Partner personally call the client and thank them for their business? Do you get in touch with them after the claim to see how they are going?
There are a never-ending range of KPI’s and financial metrics that can be measured. Most CRM’s have dashboards that can tell you a myriad of things – some useful and some just for show. File acquisition (costs and conversions), revenue, expenses, profitability by practice area and by fee earner are just a few. In the digital age, the list of analytics can be overwhelming and you can waste time over-analysing. Keep the metrics simple and relevant to you and to your customers. If the data being produced does not fit those categories then it’s likely just a distraction and when competition for clients and cases is fierce, distractions can be costly – even catastrophic. Make sure your systems are fit for purpose and allow your firm to set and adjust targets and budgets, review and analyse results and report those results clearly.
A proper cashflow assessment is a necessary task for any firm. With long settlement times on P.I. matters, your capital is effectively locked up for around 18 months. Knowing when files are going to settle and being able to manage overheads and other expenses each month is critical.
Review your files on a regular basis – are files progressing as expected? Know your industry averages and aim to meet or beat them. Customers will find this attractive. For example, if the industry average to settle a WorkCover claim is 18 months and your firm’s average is 24 months, is there a reason for this? Perhaps you are retaining claims that are more complex in nature and 24 months is appropriate. But if the reason for your increased time is inefficiency then your bottom line will be negatively impacted as will the satisfaction level of your clients. Make sure all your files are viable and optimised.
Review the Work in Progress (WIP) on each file regularly. Are your staff being charged out at the right rate? Are your staff recording time appropriately? WIP is a valuable asset so review it carefully. Lower than expected WIP may indicate that not all necessary work is being done (or not recorded) on a file – this can impact both client outcomes and professional fees. Higher than expected WIP might indicate a file is being overworked in which case the firm may not be able to recover all its costs come settlement. It will also help identify those files where human error in time recording has occurred (where 100 units have been recorded instead of 10!).
If WIP is being regularly monitored then, in theory, there shouldn’t be too much adjustment when a matter settles but it is always helpful to consider WIP write-off on a monthly basis.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask your client to genuinely review and refer you. Ask for feedback, avoid taking it personally and make the improvements suggested. If you’re playing the long game, it’s these actions that will pay off in the long run. Keep listening and be open to the lessons your clients can teach you.