I attended a professional services event last week with the snappy title of:

“Getting your fee earners to focus on client relationships and shifting the culture to push this up the strategic priority list”.

The speakers gave a lot of excellent, practical hints on how to adopt the right kinds of processes to ensure that this happened.

But in the middle of the session, it occurred to me that this was not the issue at all.  Professional services partners ARE focused on their client relationships, sometimes obsessively and selfishly so.
The real issues are:

  • Whether the relationship is of the right quality
  • Whether the relationship is sufficiently strong to last
  • Whether anyone knows how healthy the relationship is at any point in time
  • And whether the relationship is with one individual or the firm as a whole

It also occurred to me that this entire question is not at all about process, but about attitude.

What many professional services partners (and, by the way, many service organisations generally) fail to grasp is that it is entirely and increasingly in the CLIENT’s gift as to whether there is any relationship or not.

As a client, I have wide and growing choice and I will exercise that choice.

Whether I like you or not is frankly immaterial.  I need to receive significant and consistent value and I need to be convinced (every day) that you are a firm that acts in MY interests rather than yours.

If those two things are in place, I might decide that it’s a firm with which I would like to have a relationship.

It’s not about the firm and what the firm gets out of client relationships.  It’s about the client, what they want from the relationship and whether the firm continues to deliver.

An obvious point or a fundamental attitude shift?

Depends on where you’re starting from.