Strategy Nine: Listening to Clients

Using Multiple Channels to Connect with Clients

The chairman of a large professional service firm went to visit one of his firm's most important clients. Before the meeting, he debriefed with the partner who managed the relationship and became familiar with the work his firm had been doing for the client. The partner gave a rosy appraisal of the situation, indicating that the client was very comfortable having him as the go-to person for all of their various needs. During the actual meeting, the chairman began the conversation by thanking the client for his company's business, and then launched into a discussion about the executive's most critical issues and concerns. They spent a productive hour together, and as the chairman was leaving, he paused and asked one final question—a question he was sure he knew the answer to: “If there is ever an issue with our relationship that needs attention, or a particular expertise you're looking for, are you clear about whom you should first speak to at our firm?” The client thought for a moment, and a quizzical look passed over his face.

“Actually,” he replied, “no. I'm really not certain who I would turn to in your organization in those situations.” The chairman sighed quietly to himself and realized he had his work cut out for him.

A candid discussion with the client can upend even the most basic assumptions about a relationship. Do you think things are going swimmingly? Maybe they are—but maybe they ...

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