When Gerry Riskin talked about reducing the risk of losing “crown jewel clients,” he said that action must begin with some hard choices. “You can’t superplease everyone at the same time! You need to discriminate.”
How do you know who to concentrate on? “It’s really very simple. Imagine your worst nightmare: Your assistant walks in and says that a client has asked to have all their files sent to a new firm. Who do you pray it isn’t?”
The next PowerPoint slides in Gerry’s talk showed several photos of Brad Pitt with Jennifer Anniston, then of Angelina Jolie, and finally of Brad Pitt with Angelina Jolie. Without going into any theories about who seduced whom, Gerry noted that many of the factors involved in a Hollywood seduction also apply in business.
When Fortune 1000 general counsels evaluate outside firms, they look for many of the same things that Brad and Angelina looked for in each other:
Cool offering (sexy)
Caring (and showing you care)
So if you want to start bulletproofing your crown jewel clients, start with that list. And the first action to take may be a client satisfaction interview.
Now if you’ve read this blog lately, you know that there’s been an ongoing discussion with other bloggers about the best tactics for client satisfaction surveys. Gerry stresses that the purpose of these interviews is to listen and learn, “not to sell, not to service, not even to advise.” The goal is to understand four levels of needs: routine needs, explicit needs, unmet needs, and latent needs. As you ascend through these four categories, each type of need requires more time to understand and assess, but is also of greater value to the client, and of more value in bulletproofing the relationship.
Gerry suggests that the interviews be conducted by the relationship partner plus a second partner, at the client’s place of business. He recommends that they prepare by completing “at least three full dress rehearsals interviewing a partner from the firm,” to get feedback on what went well, and what could be improved.
Gerry also offered a list of questions for the interview, which he described as just a starting point:
Please describe the top three ways you measure our performance.
How important to you is it that we know your industry? How do you measure that?
When you’re stuck in traffic and you’re thinking about the business, what issues are running through your mind?
What could we be doing that would make your life easier?
What could we be doing that clients like you may not yet have asked for?
How could we better use technology to be of service to you?
Are there any services that you think we are missing out on by not making them available to companies like yours?
If you were appointed the Managing Partner for a firm like ours, what would you do differently?
Bulletproofing your crown jewel clients never ends. The important thing is to take that first step. As Gerry summed it up: “It’s infinitely better to do a little than to do nothing.”
Gerry Riskin is the co-founder of Edge International. He lives in Anguilla, British West Indies, with his wife Bethany, and his birds Kaliki (on Gerry’s shoulder) and Pekoe. Contact Gerry at firstname.lastname@example.org