I’m very fortunate to work for a consulting firm in which my engagement manager and client communicate on a regular basis. That hasn’t always been the case. Engagement managers get busy. They assume that you as the client-facing consultant are there to provide communication. The client also gets busy and doesn’t have time to meet with the engagement manager. The EM is usually just trying to sell more services anyway so they often just avoid them.
Maybe so. Engagement managers are often motivated to increase sales at their existing clients. And when that gets in the way of providing the best client service possible, communication breaks down. That is when the consultant that has daily access to the client is most needed.
Providing information about the firm
The client doesn’t usually care about the inner workings of the consultant’s firm. But every once in a while, there is information the client should be made aware of.
If the firm is sponsoring a conference that would be to the client’s benefit, the client should be informed well in advance. If there are changes in management that will affect the client and how the client does business with you, he or she should know about those changes promptly.
Changes in management should be provided face-to-face with all involved. If a change is being made in the firm’s leadership ranks, the new member of the leadership team should be brought in and introduced. If someone has been fired, it can be awkward. But the transition plan should be made with as much transparency as possible.
The engagement manager may be reluctant to communicate some news, worried about the firm’s image in the eyes of the client. The consultant needs to weigh that aspect with the client’s need to know what is going on within the firm.
Providing project information
The engagement manager should also be made informed of any changes at the client that could affect the firm’s ability to serve them. Management changes, reorganizations, or even a change in the client’s core strategy should be brought to the EM’s attention as soon as possible. Much of success in consulting hinges on relationships. If the roles of any key client people change, a call to the engagement manager should be made.
Some clients are good about relaying information of this sort to their consulting firm. Many, however, become so engrossed in the changes and how it affects them personally, they forget to inform anyone else at the consulting firm.
Staffing for the client
No matter how large or small a client engagement is, the client’s needs can be in constant flux. One of the major reasons clients work with consultants is for the flexibility of having different and complementary skills they might not have in-house.
As those needs change, the consultant should be a liaison – a bridge for the client – to ensure the optimal staffing mix. Consultants should have a constant eye on how needs are changing on an engagement and what new skills are needed. Any skills that have become obsolete are candidates to roll off of the project.
Consultants should communicate regularly with the engagement manager and any staffing managers within the firm. Knowing what skills are available “on the bench,” can help the client achieve their goals more efficiently. It also ensures better client service and the potential for additional billable work with that client.
Client service is a lot more than just doing what your job description in the statement of work says. Client service means having a constant finger on the pulse of the client’s inner workings. On top of that, the consultant must be a bridge for the client to make sure that communication is flowing between the firm and the client. Regardless of how close the client is with your firm’s engagement manager, there is always opportunity to bridge it even further.
Are you a bridge for the client on your engagement?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
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