Several years ago, a client sent this email: “I would say ‘I love you guys’ but it would sound unprofessional.”
Not very long or complicated, just a few words, but the most meaningful words you could hear from a client. They’re meaningful because they represent a deep, trusting relationship. While this type of relationship usually grows with care and nurturing over time, the bedrock foundation comes when these disciplines are applied right from the get-go:
Keeping promises – from the very initial interactions with a client, delivering on promises is what starts to cement the relationship. We’ve all heard many sad stories about ‘bait and switch’ tactics that happen so often in research and consulting. The polished, senior team goes in for the pitch, makes compelling promises and then disappears. They’re nowhere to be seen for critical decisions on project design, execution and delivery.
While we have wonderful, capable junior staffers who are smart and speedy learners, we also know they need senior support and leadership to deliver on our promises. Everyone here understands that our goal is to overdeliver and we revel in not just keeping, but in exceeding our promises.
Having empathy with our clients – whether a client is the leader of a company, a marketing director or a researcher, they are always under pressures that surround research-based decisions. Regardless of their position, their reputation rests to some extent on how smart our work is and on how well we communicate it. One of the things we look for when we bring new people into our organization is strong empathy. A side benefit – – it makes this company a really nice place to work, but more importantly it means everybody is good at walking in clients’ shoes.
Taking on our client’s challenges as our own challenges– regardless of how large or small a project is, we know it takes place within a larger context. Often the biggest challenge is not solving the issue expressed in the rfp, but getting buy-in from other people who need to act on the findings. To bridge the gap that so often occurs between research insights and action, we’ve created a “Strategist” role. Strategists are people with hands-on consulting experience, whose focus is less on research results and more on helping clients apply insights. They typically have broader business backgrounds that give them a wider perspective when answering the question: “How does this client put these findings to work in their organization?”
One thing you might have noticed is that building this kind of relationship is a little bit like being in a successful marriage. While the proposal/wedding/honeymoon phase is exciting, it’s the long-term work that continues to keep the flame alive. We love our clients and we work hard to keep that love strong!