Most organisations talk about a desire to have their clients at the centre of their organisation, but to what extent do they implement this effectively?
For most, we see that they have a desire to be client-centric but there is a gap between the intent and the reality. So often we hear that it's a challenge to really bring this to life. Organisations that are successful have a strategy that supports their ambition and a clear plan that brings their strategy to life.
So can you be a client-centered organisation without first having a client-centered strategic plan?
To answer this we dived into exploring the differences between a client-centered
strategy and a traditional strategy, the benefits, and how they can be implemented into your organisation to really make an impact in your client’s lives.
The essential difference between a client-centered strategy and a traditional strategy is primarily in the way that the strategies are created and how they are focused. In a Traditional Strategy, you’ll find that most of the time the people involved in its creation are the people on the board, leaders and occasionally employees of the organisation. They talk about what they need to do, where they want to go and they set measures for the organisation. A client-centered strategy looks at the organisation from the perspective of the client and uses that view, to gather information on the strategic direction. A client-centered strategy is created with your clients, for your clients, because they have a deep understanding of their needs and constraints.
It’s how you bring in another piece of information into your decision making to broaden your perspective. Looking from the outside in, versus looking from the inside out, is what’s going to assist you in coming up with the most effective strategy. The most significant benefit is that with a client-centered strategy, you’ve got some testing built into the process to make sure that your services align with your client’s needs.
Essentially, a strategy is what points you in the direction of the way your organisation is heading and how you’re going to get there; if that strategy has not incorporated the needs of your clients, there is a high risk of the strategy missing the mark. Implementing your client’s perspectives into your strategy will help you come up with a much more well-rounded and client-centered approach to the future.
Another benefit that is oftentimes overlooked is that a client-centered strategy facilitates effective decision-making skills. With a client-focused strategy, all personal egos, perspectives and personalities are taken out and replaced with insights that can be gained from what the client has said. Instead of “This is my perspective and I’m pretty sure I’m right”, it creates more of “This is what my client is telling me” To make the whole decision-making process much quicker and easier.
The future is here and it is a future in which the consumer has a lot more choice and a lot more power. If you find yourself thinking that you know what’s best for them and that you know exactly what your client would want - you risk setting yourself up for failure. Getting your clients involved in what you do and understanding what they really need - from their
perspectives - will set your organisation up to do a better job.
Now that you know the differences and a few benefits of using a client-centered strategy, there’s one question that remains. How can you get started?
The most powerful way is to bring the stories of the clients into the room. Starting to weave those stories in, before setting the strategy, allows the board to build a better understanding and assists in getting to know more about your clients and the service they need in a more personal way. This can be very powerful because when you get down to finally talking about your strategy, a lot of the information has already been collected and you’ve had the
opportunity to think about how you can get all those pieces to fit together.
Another approach would be to co-design your strategy with your clients. It can be quite awkward to bring a random group of people into a room, sit them down and question them. It would feel more like an interrogation. So a better approach to co-designing your strategy with your clients would be to start by doing some well planned activities together, that help you together uncover their reality. This is so you make sure that you’re bringing everyone along for the ride and not conducting a one-sided questionnaire. It’s surprising when you see the amount of information you can gather by having a conversation while doing a simple activity, it gets a lot more real – a lot more personal.
Generally, as people, we’re better at having meaningful conversations with people we’ve just met when we’re focusing on something else and not ourselves or the conversation. These conversations that arise when working on simple activities are very beneficial to set up a successful strategy.
While doing so, it would be great to keep in mind some things your organisation may have in common with your consumer. Ask yourself- and the client, “What are some things the organisation has in common with you?” “What are some things we can work on together?” and “What are the things we really need?” because that then helps to build a strong relationship with your client and also assists in building that influence, which in turn will help bring your strategy to life.
What if you have just created your strategic plan is it too late?
Not at all, simply speak to your clients and other important stakeholders and gather feedback on the strategy that has been created. That way, you’ll know if your strategy is actually working and if it’s not, you can always tweak it day by day. Keep in mind, it’s much easier to make small adjustments rather than making a huge change the further down the road you get.
Getting insight and input from your clients is key to being able to build a successful strategy which can, in turn, assist in really making an impact in your client’s life and building a meaningful connection.
Now that you’ve gone through some of the benefits and how you can get started, think about whether you’re asking the right people the right questions. Are you going with the flow just creating your next strategy the same way you have always done or are you centering your clients and creating an impact while doing so?