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February 27, 2006

Rule 9: Be There For Clients--24/7.

Rule 9: Be There For Clients--24/7.

(See the first 8 rules: 1-6 here, 7 here and 8 here.)

Get used to it. We attorneys, accountants and legions of other professionals with corporate clients--at big firms, boutiques or solos--are no longer royalty. In the future, "returning telephone calls promptly", "keeping your client informed" (like those two items should ever have been a big deal!), blackberries and having effective voice message and paging systems will not be nearly enough--if it ever were enough. Color all that barely adequate. Get a new standard--a new wave-length with your clients and customers. I posted about this recently in "Being There: Availability".

Family will always come first. Rest, time and re-bonding with family and friends is important to nurturing body, mind, soul and spirit. Vacations are important, too. We need all that recharging, and we need lots of it. But we now live in a world (1) that never sleeps, (2) in which delivering services based on problem-solving, know-how and judgment is as important as mass-producing, marketing and distributing widgets, and (3) where competition for good clients--amongst accountants, actuaries, consultants, stockbrokers, lawyers, you name it--is getting stiffer. In the next decade, and even for high-end clients, more and more "cookie cutter" and fungible services will be outsourced and done by very smart and far more cost-effective workers and professionals in Bangalore, Taipei or Mexico City. Just wait. What's left over will be specialty items and things clients need professionals and specialists to do at their highest levels of thinking and problem-solving.

Compete on service. Compete using your best skills delivered with superior service. If you really want "clients for life", and the rewards promised in all those happy themes you see on the shelves of the business sections of Borders and Barnes & Noble, consider being there 24/7--and telling your clients that you already are. No--it won't kill you, diminish your health, ruin your marriage or drive your employees away. Just let your clients know that you are totally accessible--no client worth keeping will abuse the privilege--and then show them. As a practical matter, you can assign two people (as my firm does) to be abreast of each client matter, no matter how small, and never charge for the overlap (it works). You can actively jockey to become the "emergency go-to" provider when a client needs to get something addressed immediately simply by doing the day-to-day work you already have for that client with uncommon enthusiasm and ahead of schedule. How you show them and how you do it is up to you. In order for most of us to be competitive, we have to get into the habit of "being there"--that means both quality time and any time. Good clients deserve this.

Posted by JD Hull at February 27, 2006 12:24 AM

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