When talking to professionals about the importance of cross-servicing, you are likely greeted with a series of reasons why it can’t get done: “I don’t have enough time.” “I’m too busy.” “I didn’t get my degree to sell.” “The client is happy.” “I don’t know how to have that conversation.” And so many more. All fair responses, too, but those self-limiting beliefs prevent your practitioners from seeing cross-servicing as a way to fulfill their passion for the work they do.
Having loyal and engaged clients allows practitioners to practice what they love. And the deeper the client relationship, the more likely your firm will have an abundance of meaningful projects. Business development executives and marketers can help instill a culture of cross-servicing as part of a larger focus on deepening client relationships.
It’s Not About Selling.
In many firms that survey or solicit feedback from clients, they hear that clients are happy with the services provided but do not know or understand the additional service offerings that can be provided to their business. Those clients also believe it is the responsibility of the professionals who deliver services to their organization to explore ways to create greater impact on their business. Clients comment that they appreciate introductions to niche services, specialty practices, and other professionals who are relevant to their organization.
When clients are asked, “Does it feel like the professionals are just trying to sell you more?” they respond, “It’s not about selling, it’s really about servicing my account. If you have services that can help my business achieve greater results, don’t be afraid to offer them. Because if you aren’t, you can be assured that one of your competitors is having that conversation with us.”
Work to ensure your practitioners understand cross-servicing is just that – servicing clients.
It’s About the Customer Experience.
A lot is being written about the client experience (CX) as the next competitive battleground for professional services firms. Organizations have spent time refining their customer service models which now creates the platform to launch initiatives focused on creating an amazing client experience. You may ask, “what’s the difference?” Here it is: client service is about what we do, the work product we deliver, and the advice we provide. Client experience is how you make the client feel with every interaction they have with you and the firm.
Seeing every interaction through the lens of the client’s experience and galvanizing your organization to create an exceptional experience at every stage of your interactions will fuel sustained growth. It is what affords you the chance to rethink how to better optimize customer touchpoints around the services you are offering. Promoting a CX approach fortifies cross-servicing activities by enabling each professional to evaluate the impact of the experience they create with each client interaction.
Businesses are also refocusing on the customer experience because it shapes virtually everything they do. During the past 12 months, studies show that 80% of consumers have increased their digital usage across a variety of channels. This trend is not going away, so it is time to consider how prospective clients experience your brand and your firm online as well as in person.
Do Your Homework. Inventory What You Know.
Client intelligence makes you smarter about cross-servicing. Over time, your firm should build a robust body of knowledge about your clients, their businesses, their stakeholders, and their competitors. Equipped with this information, your firm can be a better client champion, demonstrating that you understand your clients’ businesses.
In addition to the items above, here are a few additional client intelligence areas to understand that will lead to client advancement and cross-servicing opportunities:
- Organization’s vision, mission, and goals
- Leadership team members
- Goals for a variety of functional areas in the company
- Other professional services firms engaged with the client
Identify each stakeholder at your client and explore what you know about them:
- Persona of the stakeholder
- What is important to them
- Ways to mobilize new connections
When you are feeling bold, work with team members who service a client’s account to create a SWOT analysis (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats/trends) about the client and their relationship with your firm. This will illuminate ways to create additional value.
Build an action plan to broaden your understanding of the client’s goals, their functional areas, and the people you know on the client’s team. This client intelligence will allow you to gain breadth and depth in your cross-servicing efforts, which will further influence the success of their business.
Be a Value Creator. Deepen Client Relationships.
Research shows that clients who possess deep relationships with the professionals who service their accounts will yield higher profits, increased fees, and greater client loyalty. OK “Captain Obvious,” we get that, but how do you make that happen?
Cross-servicing positions you as a value creator who is focused on developing opportunities to drive growth in the client’s business. A value creator is committed to intentionally identifying organizational needs and partnering with colleagues to develop solutions that positively impact clients.
Value creation is seen by the client in a variety of ways, including:
- Revenue generation
- Business process improvement
- Cost optimization
- Risk avoidance
- Profitability enhancement
- Ease of doing business
Based on the client intelligence you have gained, identify areas you want to expand into. Make sure you identify articles, blogs, case studies, videos, or other resources your firm has and share with key contacts within your client who will benefit from the information. Do not limit your thinking; relevant information can and does come from outside the firm, too. Clients also love industry data. Make sure that, at least once per year, your professionals set up a meeting to share industry insights. Your efforts will be applauded.
When you focus your attention on learning all you can about the client’s business, cross-servicing activities will be revealed, and that’s where the magic happens.
Together is Better. Who’s Your Plus-One?
When you are strategizing on how to courageously cross-service your client base, remember that this can and should be a team effort. Start with understanding the strengths of each member of the client team. Determine how you can leverage the strengths of each professional to deliver at a higher level of performance.
Become intentional about collaboration with colleagues in your firm, centers of influence, and outside professional services who complement your approach and share a similar client portfolio. Encourage practitioners to bring a “plus-one” to client meetings—someone who can offer perspective and add value to the relationship while showcasing the talent and depth of resources available.
Remember you are #allinthistogether. That is especially true when it comes to cross-servicing and delighting clients with talent and expertise.
Make the Magic Happen. Quick Starters to Courageous Cross-Servicing.
To start down the path of cross-servicing, work with your professionals to:
- Review your client list and identify five clients to focus on for the next six months. (Start small and see how it goes.)
- Document the client intelligence you have about the client’s business and key contacts.
- Assign a timeframe and the resources required to explore more about the client’s business.
- Inventory all the services the firm currently provides to each client and brainstorm additional services that could be offered.
- Use your calendar to set up a consistent cadence of contact to increase your communications with clients. Annually, talk about how the relationship is working.
Stay courageous. When you push your firm’s professionals to have these business conversations, you will be rewarded with deeper relationships and an abundance of additional projects.
About Judy Bodenhamer
Judy Bodenhamer is the founder and managing director of the Client Engagement Group (CEG), an advisory firm committed to inspiring professionals to think differently about the value of client relationships. She works with businesses and professionals to accelerate client engagement, achieve greater business development success, and deliver exceptional results. Learn more at www.clienteg.com