Sunday, June 5, 2011

Assessment - The Key to Client Retention

In a previous post I suggested that account and project leaders lead their clients. And that clients will follow only if the leaders possess credibility, which is composed of the conviction, courage, care, competence and composure. By demonstrating these traits, account and project leaders can influence their clients to follow their direction and make the right decision.

The weak links – care and competence. Many studies have shown that leaders are weakest in two traits  - care and the softer side of competence: communication, teaching and facilitation. A leader can strengthen those areas by applying the right style of leadership. To know what style is best, the client’s readiness must be assessed.  Since readiness is a function of will and skill, asking the right questions about those is core to the assessment.

Assessment questions about skill. Here are some examples of questions to assess how skilled a client is at a task, whether that is gathering needed information, putting together a plan, making a design decision, getting her boss to approve a budget, etc.
  • How many times have you been through this before?
  • Did you get training at some point for this?
  • Help educate me…how do you actually go about doing this?
  • What do you need to get this done?

Assessment questions about will.
  • What has your experience been like when you did this before?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • Were you successful in accomplishing this before?
  • How do you like doing this?

Apply the right style. Once an account or project manager understands the client’s readiness, they can apply the right leadership style. For example, if a client has not made many design decisions or recommendations before, they could apply a style that is very directive by providing a list of criteria to make decisions. They could also practice the design review with the client ahead of time.  

Using the most effective style will ensure a successful client relationship and improve client retention. More on defining various leadership styles will be offered in subsequent posts. 

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