This happened a few days ago at a local accounting firm I was visiting, but the principles apply to all professional service businesses.
A client dropped by with a few questions to finish preparing his records and an apology for it being a busy time of year. He took 10-15 minutes of a professional’s time. After showing him in, an administrative employee commented “I hate when they do that” referring to the client’s dropping in without an appointment.
It’s important to know that this firm uses value billing and markets its services by telling clients the flat rate for services includes questions and phone calls. Here are two points to consider, but this scene offers a lot to think about.
- Value billing is just that – being paid for value delivered. If that client couldn’t have his questions answered, he could easily go to another firm that would be more helpful. If you choose to offer flat rate billing, the rates should include the additional personal time that clients will ask for.
- The tone and attitude of a firm is subtle but easily transmitted. It struck me that the client felt he had to apologize for requesting a service that had been offered. While the professional who met with him had no reluctance to spend the time, the initial administrative contact was where the displeasure was expressed.
Of the two issues, I think the second is more serious. The tone of any business is either set by its leaders or simply evolves in the absence of strong example. The firm in this case has allowed an attitude of unfriendly “gate keeping” to develop in its administrative staff.
Today is a good day for a check on the attitude your firm transmits. We’ll talk about how to polish that in future posts, but, for now, observe professional and administrative employees when they deal with clients and note the overall tone.
What else do you see in this little scenario? Have you dealt with the same or similar issues? Please share your experiences!