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Phoenix Forward

5 rules of strategic consulting

How consultants can keep clients happy

A consultant shouldn’t disappoint a client, and yet there are many pitfalls that can cause just that, according to Dr. Eric Threatt, BA, MBA, DBA, a strategy consultant for Fortune 100 and 500 companies, including IBM™. There may be unmet proposal benchmarks, disorganized meetings, individuals with the wrong skill sets billing hours, among other disappointments. To the client, these are often perceived as broken promises on work that the consulting firm agreed to deliver during the sales pitch, notes Threatt, who has more than 20 years of industry experience.

“When a client hires a consultant firm they set an expectation that it’s going to provide the highest level of reliability and service,” says Threatt, who teaches in the MBA program at the University of Phoenix Charlotte Campus. “Consultants must deliver on that promise.”

When they don’t, a service quality gap exists and consultants risk losing professional face — and clients. Instead, Threatt recommends consultants following these five tips to provide high-quality service.

Prove your worth.
Consultants who write thorough proposals, offer a high-caliber (possibly MBA-degreed) staff and consistently meet their deliverables prove their worth as consultants, says Threatt.

Answer those last-minute phone calls.
Timely responses, or at least a perceived timeliness to attending to clients’ needs, not only placates the clients’ expectations, but further enhances the consultant’s reputation as a reliable professional, says Threatt. “If the phone is ringing and you choose not to answer the phone because it’s 5 pm, it immediately casts a cloud over the level of quality service you are going to provide,” he explains.

Build the client’s trust.
“The highest level of achievement for a consultant in terms of a client relationship is, what we call in the industry, becoming a trusted advisor,” says Threatt. This means proving one’s competency time and time again, keeping clients abreast of project developments and accomplishments and always remaining honest with the client about the firm’s skills.

Demonstrate empathy to the client.
Clients can tell when a consultant genuinely cares about their company’s success, says Threatt. “Empathy within itself isn’t worth much unless it is demonstrated to the client,” he says. “Consultants can demonstrate empathy by taking the time to research the clients’ companies, their industries or those things that pose challenges to them, such as pending legislation … then, advise accordingly.”

Deliver the client quality tangibles.
Providing high-quality service can be as simple as catching typographical errors before sending email correspondence, says Threatt. That also means coming to meetings organized, effectively communicating your advice, implementing strategies and executing change, or even arriving at work on time and keeping your in-house desk uncluttered.

IBM is a registered trademark of International Business Machines Corporation.