Customer loyalty. It’s critical in every business and every industry. In the consulting service arena, it is often a “make or break” proposition for independent consultants, small firms, and even the large consulting houses.
What creates customer loyalty? Clearly, delivering promised results is an essential ingredient. But what are the essential qualities of the consultant who can nurture the kind of partnership with their client that leads to a steady stream of work, project after project. And, better yet, does their work lead to unsolicited referrals to other clients? What does the client look for when hiring a consultant, or more importantly, what does the client receive from a currently engaged consultant that makes them want to “hold on” to that consultant for the next project, and the next, and the next, etc.?
Is it the firm that the consultant belongs to? Is it the firm’s brand or reputation? Is it the firm’s client list or citations? Is it the firm’s website? Is it their range of service offerings? Is it the size or experience of their consulting staff? Is it the firm’s newsletter? Is it the price point? Is it their methodology? What is it about the firm?
Is it the consultant? If so, what were the qualities of the consultant that causes them to be brought back time and time again? Is it their integrity? It is their work ethic? Is it the “relationship factor”? Is it their intelligence? Is it their “knowing” attitude that borders on arrogance, or is it their humility? Is it how they handle the political environment? What is it about the consultant?
So what works for you? What is your formula for success? Are you willing to share it with others? What creates customer loyalty, and what destroys it?
Many years ago, when I was first introduced to consultative skills in a program on group process consultation, the facilitators said the most critical of attributes for a successful consultant is “warmth”. I’ll make some modifications, but I start with that point because I think it’s the consultant him/herself, or the community of consultants in a firm, that lead a client, more often than not, to bring an individual consultant back. I would modify the “warmth” comment because it can be misleading – a warm person with no real intelligence or value to add will likely be pushed aside. Here’s my short list of attributes that make a consultant a trusted partner:
1. A sincere connection with the client, born of active listening and a true desire to create value and help the client “be better”
2. A bias for action and results
3. Tools and frameworks that help the client structure his/her/their thinking and get a foothold and clear path
4. A willingness to find and tell the client the truth in a way that he/she can hear and learn from it.
Great comments, Joe! Thanks for contributing! I look forward to hearing from more people as well.