How do you increase the actual and perceived value of your work?
When we talk about value in the context of consulting, we're really talking about different questions, with different answers. At the very fundamental level, you need to fulfill your client's expectations. This means delivering what you promised (on your marketing and work agreement), within the timeframe and budget that you promised.
But we all know this is a lazy goal, and one that won't help you build a healthy brand and reputation over time. A successful consulting service requires delivering great work AND exceeding the client's expectations.
Doing this creates a whole new set of challenges. Morgan Housel wrote,
Expectations move slower than reality on the ground, so a lot of frustration comes from clinging to the trends of past eras.
This is not only true for financial investors, but also for consulting clients. They unconsciously use information from the past to direct expectations. Based on your last communication, they will:
If the client gets hugely surprised or unnecessarily worried during the engagement, the consultant has done a poor job of communicating. When you let the distance between the past and the present get too big, client expectations won't be aligned with reality.
That's why good consultants frequently report on the status of their work.
The best way to do that is by using inverted thinking. How do you want your client to feel after the engagement is over? Relieved? Excited? Curious? Encouraged With that in mind, design a way to quickly report progress and get aligned.
These ongoing reports can be structured and delivered in many ways - as always, context matters. Luckily there are some general best practices that you can use to make the best out of them:
What else would you add to the list?
We have all fallen into the temptation of overpromising to win new business. But if client satisfaction = value perception - expectation, it might be a good idea to (reasonably) lower expectations. David Maister illustrated it well:
One professional I know describes the syndrome this way: “The most depressing day in the office is the day after we have won a new client. We look at each other and say, “How on earth are we going to deliver all that we promised for the budget we agreed to?”
Only 1 out of 6 consultancies have a documented process to design and report status updates during client engagements.
These are the numbers from 36 micro consultancies that collaborated with BCC. If you know of any larger research or publication that looked at this topic, please share it with me. It’s a quick and easy way to boost perceived value, and as a consequence, improve your upselling and client lifetime value.
What can you do this week to improve the quality of your service?
David Maister reminds us that both value perception and expectations don’t necessarily reflect reality. This means that our work consists of not only delivering good results but also delivering great client experience. And improving the quality of our service is way easier than improving the quality of our work.
Some clients enjoy regular check-ins and detailed project summaries. Others are happy with a monthly status report. But all of them enjoy a better service.