In a “customer-centric” world, we too often lose sight of the customer.
“But I paid no attention to what mattered most”
— Ty Herndon, “What Mattered Most”
I’ll level with you: I espouse a professional-services ethic that is decidedly “client first.” It’s frustrating to some who have worked alongside me, and perhaps edifying to others. I’ll write on where it comes from one of these days.
What “client first” means for me is this: If you’re working for or with me in serving a client on a project, the only productive discussion is one that reasonably focuses on the client mission within the defined scope.
However, I’m also experienced enough to know that not all service providers are bought into this mentality. WGP has at least once engaged specialist consultants who simply can’t step outside of their own rate structure to figure out what is best for the end client (or even WGP as their own client). The “job” is to spend time on an account and to bill fees.
What a boring mission. What a boring definition of “customer.”
In that mode of consulting, the product is hours or days of work, and the customer is actually the consultant, who seeks ways to serve herself through development of fees. The true client—the “Big C” client paying the bills—is incidental to the process.
If you employ consultants or employees who focus more on their time, their process, and their rights than on your problem to solve, you are incidental to the process. You’re like Facebook users—important to the business model because you make it go, but incidental to the business.
If you’re an executive, you have multiple customers: likely a boss, board, shareholders, and the Big C customer. And you have yourself. If you find yourself trouncing Big C in order to please your other customers or pad your income, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Some of the best consultants and executives I know make income, fees, and work nearly incidental to the client relationship. Good service is well compensated, unless you do work for bad clients (or bad bosses). But then again, why would you want to help them?
The “client first” model that we work hard to champion at WGP is simple: Listen, bring something new, do real work. Too many in professional services do too little of each of these, and then wonder why they look and act self-centered.
The key is in knowing who the customer is. Do you know yours? Is it the Big C customer, or some other customer you’re serving.
What do you think?