What are the attributes of the perfect client? Most firms would probably say it is someone who generates substantial fees that is profitable for the firm. This client probably also pays on time, makes referrals, and is willing to give testimonials and act as a firm reference. That client also thinks of the firm as its most important advisor and always seeks its input on important business decisions. Equally important, that client is cooperative and keeps records in tip-top shape, always readily accessible to the firm.
So what kind of dream world do I live in pontificating about this ideal client? But, I am not sure it’s a dream world, because what I find is that the best firms seem to have more clients that approach this perfectionist's ideal. And, it is no accident.
One reason is the firm gives top-notch quality client service. But probably a more significant factor is likely that the firm lets it clients know what they expect of them and explains why it is mutually beneficial that they act in such a manner.
I wonder how well most firms are at expressing their expectations to prospects and clients? Is it evident in the proposal process, the engagement letter, or when the firm actually does the work? I would venture the engagement letter is the most likely place but at best, only partially, and then in legalistic terms.
The problem is the clients don't readily understand what is expected of them. Quite often, the only time expectations are ever discussed is when there is a dispute and then the parties argue over who was supposed to do what.
It is my theory that firms, to a great extent, can have better clients if they work at molding their current ones. This begins with defining exactly what that firm wants from their clients and communicating that information. Besides improved client performance, an added benefit of the process is that the bad clients are identified.
The payoff on your part might not result in all your clients being perfect, but it will mean an improved breed of clients and certainly a more profitable future will be guaranteed.
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