Business conversationOne of the things I find most fascinating about motivation is how often what we think people want, and what will motivate them, is not what they want at all. Bizarrely, and really just to underline how easy it is to get this wrong, this even applies to how we think we are motivated ourselves (but that’s another article).

So, as an example, there are a lot of things that we think will attract clients, and will contribute to their satisfaction and happiness with our services.

Often these are just the facts about our business that we position in a way that (we hope) will appeal to existing and prospective clients. It is not unusual for professional services firms’ websites to focus on:

  • Size (if they’re a big firm)
  • Agility (if they're small)
  • Qualifications
  • Awards
  • Experience
  • Expertise

and to talk about how they are

  • Uniquely insightful
  • Independant thinkers
  • Client focused
  • Innovative, and
  • Exceed expectations

to name just a few.

Of course, all these things are important, at least when attracting new clients - after all, they have to have something on which to base their choice.

However, once they have actually become a client, there’s a lot of research which suggests that there are five key things that people really want, and on which they will judge their satisfaction with the service they receive:

  • Competence
  • Authenticity
  • Integrity
  • Listening
  • Responsiveness

So how do you influence that judgment?

First of all, to make things a bit trickier, you have to realise that it’s not actually the rational absolute levels of these elements on which people will make their judgement, rather it is their individual, personal perception of their experience.

How can you even know what that is?

Particularly as, if you asked your clients, they probably couldn't articulate it very clearly themselves.

One thing is certain though – it’s not a box ticking exercise. A particular number, or set, of qualifications do not equal competence. Having a few lines on your website profile about what interests you outside of work is not authenticity. And allowing a client to talk for a while before handing down the benefit of your expertise and experience in an “insightful, independent and innovative” way, is not listening.

Try that and you’ll end up with some very disgruntled clients. You may not be aware of it though, because it’s a default human behaviour that most of them will never tell you

So, if you can’t solve it with box ticking, what can you do?

Perhaps you could get somewhere near it by considering what you think would demonstrate each of those things? Unfortunately that one doesn’t really work either.

You’ll probably get a reasonable idea about what would satisfy you; but remember, this is about them and their perception of their experience. And it’s likely to be different for each client - that’s the individual and personal part.

Then what can you do?

The starting point is Understanding.

First of all, understanding some of the basic concepts of how motivation actually works, so that you can identify your own and your clients key motivational drivers, and put this knowledge to work as you create, nurture and build a powerful and mutually beneficial relationship.

This isn’t really that difficult, but a lot of it is counter intuitive. So it’s a good idea to learn something about it rather than just going with your gut instinct, which is what a lot of us tend to do, and which can be very wide of the mark.

Add to that an authentic effort to understand and respond to your client’s view of the world and whatever you’re working on with them, and you’ll be starting to get on the track of demonstrating that you measure up to the five criteria.

Next comes Communication.

Do loads of it – but not simply for its own sake, and not just with the clients that you feel comfortable communicating with.

The biggest single cause of complaints against solicitors, accounting for around 20 - 25%, is costs. However, behind these complaints, and many others, lies a lack of, or unclear, communication.

Knowing how to communicate clearly, fully and regularly is a fundamental building block of strong and resilient businesses relationships with your clients.

There’s a lot more involved in turning client satisfaction into an art form, but those two will get you started and will give you some real and tangible benefits in saving you time and stress, as well as increasing business referrals.

The concepts, ideas and techniques outlined in this article are explored and taught in much greater depth in my one day training, Transformational Client Relationships™, which is specifically designed for lawyers and accountants.

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