What does it mean to have a client-focused mindset? For any person in contact with customers and clients, it’s an exercise in putting yourself in their shoes. What are their needs? What’s keeping them up at night? How can you meet their needs in a personal, compelling way?
This series aims to provide insight into fostering a customer and client-focused mindset among your internal teams. Based on the conversations and learnings that we at U.S. Bank offer our own employees, this content will provide you with a roadmap for adopting similar best practices yourself.
This first part of the series will address client expectations. Each major client expectation must result in a compatible mindset that addresses the client’s needs. There are some hard truths to be found in this section, but it helps to know the playing field before starting or rekindling any business relationship.
We’ll focus on this area in two parts: general client expectations, and the compatible internal mindsets that best address them.
All potential impacts of business decisions are considered – including negative impacts.
While there may be a tendency to focus on internal issues -- cost, policy, compliance, etc. – the impact on the client should come first.
While it is vital to keep an optimistic attitude when making business decisions, you also need to weigh all possible impacts. If you can plot out the reasons why the client would say no, it becomes easier to get them to yes.
It can help to play through any request with the client. This allows them to see the ramifications of the request and its effects, whether in the short or long term. The client’s impact comes first – if you approach the conversation with internal issues (compliance, cost, policy, etc.), the focus shifts away from the client’s needs.
If you are the provider/supplier, you likely have more at stake in the relationship than your client does.
Unless you are the only provider of services/goods for the client, recognize that they have other options.
Unless you have an absolute monopoly on your services, the client can always opt to go elsewhere. Setting a client-focused mindset can help differentiate your organization from competitors.
Here are some non-negotiable best practices that can help differentiate your organization:
Your internal colleagues are partners in the client relationship.
Internal obstacles shouldn’t limit engagement and support from other teams. Your clients expect the full support of your organization.
When clients undertake a business relationship with you, they are also married to all other aspects of your organization. You may be the direct contact with the client’s representative, but they will expect support from the entire organization. Business line, regional, incentive, and functional obstacles must not limit partner engagement; the client relationship depends on your ability to leverage the full force of your organization.
Rapport comes before expertise.
It is more important to be liked than respected. Especially when dealing with personality styles that prioritize rapport above all else.
The key thing about business relationships is that they are relational. No matter how much subject matter expertise you may have, it won’t help foster a relationship with genuine rapport with the client representative. If clients respect but don’t like you, they are always seeking someone else who they can respect and like.
How well do you know your client? Are you asking them questions beyond their immediate business needs? Do you know their personal background, styles, and sophistications/interests? These points help build that rapport long before you get to the selling phase.
There are very few situations with an absolute “right” and “wrong” response.
Once you get past this binary concept, you can start to focus on real strategies and options.
There are very few business situations that demand a black/white binary response. Your client interactions should also avoid these limitations. Don’t think about what’s the “right” or “wrong” response in a given situation. Think instead about what would be most effective for the client’s current situation. Once “right” and “wrong” are rendered irrelevant, you can move on to actual strategies.
If you’re pursuing the status quo, you’re losing.
Sooner or later, a competitor might offer something to entice your clients away. Has your relationship been stagnant?
Has your business relationship with the client hit a snag? Are you simply soldiering along with the same services, without adding any additional value? Don’t be surprised if your client ends the relationship. Loss aversion is a powerful factor in preventing organizations from taking new risks with clients.
These mindsets can help address some of the universal expectations that clients share. It might be best to focus on one expectation at a time, especially if you’re just starting to build a client-focused mindset in your organization.
In our next article, we’ll look at common business personality styles, and how to tailor your communications to each of them.