Operations has more control over business development and marketing than they ever have before. The technical experts in your firm ARE your marketing employees, whether it’s believed or not. Most of your employees don’t even realize they influence and promote repeat work for their firm. As leaders, managers, and supervisors, you must mentor and coach your team to create a culture that results in repeat clients and long lasting clients. This is really quite simple. Create a customer experience that sets you a part from your competitors. Focus on the client and not YOUR agenda.
As a principal of an architecture, engineering, or construction firm, you must empower your employees who are serving your clients to provide a customer experience they will remember and share with other potential clients. When the principal of the firm focuses on the customer being number one, then the employees will also display this type of behavior. Practice what you preach. Our industry has historically focused on “billable hours,” which is important but it shouldn’t be the number one priority. The customer is the number one priority. Period.
If leaders and managers are continuously hounding employees about being at 70%-80% billable, they aren’t going to focus on the relationship with the client. For example, if you are an engineer, and don’t typically attend weekly construction meetings because it’s not “billable,” then you are probably not going to attend that meeting. If you do attend the meeting, it does, however, offer you the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the project owner, architect, and contractor. Being involved in these weekly meetings can also allow you to see issues before they become major problems thus saving you and your firm time and money. As the engineer, you are building a relationship with at least three different people that influence potential, future work for your firm. Why not make that investment? You have these relationships in place, so start reaping the benefits with the ones you have. .
As a “billable employee,” you must create value for your client, because you are typically the person with your firm that is interacting most with the client. Every interaction with that client is an opportunity to create a customer experience, good or bad, and build on your individual and firm brand perception. Whether you like it or not, whatever the client perceives as your brand is your brand. Everyone that interacts with a client is responsible for delivering a great customer experience. That experience is what sets you apart from your competitors.
As a principal or employee of a firm, think about how you can influence the customer experience. Answering emails and phone calls early in the morning or late at night, taking care of a client problem by extending grace vs. perpetuating the issue, asking the project owner how their business is doing, or going the extra mile to meet their demanding deadline. There are a host of things each employee can do to create a great customer experience. By instilling these values in employees, you will create repeat clients that will continue utilizing your services and also encourage them to tell their colleagues and friends.
Our industry isn’t typically known for providing stellar customer experience but now is our chance to do it. Think about your processes and how you can create that great customer experience through not only your business development and marketing efforts but through your operations. Each employee can be coached to provide a great customer experience. It starts at the top with the leader.