Implementing a Client Priority List

2013-08-10 15.39.42I received a lot of interesting comments from my post last week on client priority lists. I didn’t think this was a topic that would have such broad interest. Most of the comments were along the lines of “sure, this is what you should do, but how do you actually do it”. I’ll attempt to provide a bit more detail on actual implementation here, driven off of specific comments I received.

“How do you create one list when you have competing purposes and objectives for different accounts?”

It is simplistic to assume that one list with a simple purpose is going to satisfy all needs for client prioritization, especially at larger firms. When creating your list, we recommend implementing a combination of different tiers and a series of qualifiers that designate the kind of accounts they are and what kind of service they require to achieve a specific objective. It’s important for the organization to all be on the same page on who the priority accounts are, but also have an ability to see what specific service model to apply.[more…]

“How do you go about defining, articulating, and communicating differentiated levels of service?”

We recommend putting together a service charter that describes three things: (1) what the differentiated level of service is for each tier and client type, including non-tiered accounts, (2) who is responsible for providing a certain service and what the expectation is on them, and (3) how each point of service is going to be measured and monitored. This charter should be part of the communication of the client priority list when this gets published.

How formal the communication is depends on the size and nature of the organization, but could include emails, laminates, teach-ins, or discussions in team meetings. We recommend having a forum where staff can ask questions to make it crystal clear what is being asked. In our experience people end up with very different interpretations of the asks, so anything that mitigates confusion helps.

“How do you get your resources to follow the new focus?”

People are generally much more comfortable engaging with their usual clients in a usual way. It has to be made clear that the expectation is that behavior needs to change to provide more focus on priority accounts. It has to be made clear that the organization is OK with a deprioritization of non-priority accounts given that there is only a finite amount of capacity available.

What becomes clear very quickly when implementing a client prioritization plan is that some organizations don’t have the right capacity, skills, and relationships in place to execute the plan effectively. These might need to be developed (through training, senior mentorship) or acquired if it becomes clear that they can’t be effectively nurtured in-house. In many cases, it may be most effective to acquire personnel with already established relationships and skills. In the harshest sense, this would call for an upgrade of existing staff.

“How do you ensure compliance and how do you track the success of implementing the list?”

A client priority list isn’t a static document. It should be part of the day-to-day life of the organization. To the extent possible, it should should be systemized and included in the any routine reporting, including:

  • Inclusion of a priority indicator for a given account in any dashboards, reports, and screens used by staff and management.

  • Periodic monitoring of services provided and communications to priority accounts, through a CRM or similar systems.

  • Benchmarking performance and activity of these accounts, against different tiers as well as non-priority accounts.

  • Monitoring of changes in depth of relationship and penetration over time.

In the end, the success of the list will be measured on the absolute increase in performance of these accounts, but also in the relative outperformance of the rest of the client base.

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