All about the journey
Kim Tasso reports on this year’s PM Forum
conference which discussed how to deliver a great
client experience in the golden age of marketing.
The 21st Annual PM Forum conference – the best
attended ever with nearly 200 delegates – took place on
29 September. For the tenth time it was held at the
Congress Centre in London which now feels like home.
The theme of delivering a great client experience is testimony to
the incredible journey that professional services marketing has
taken from its early days when it focused on promotional
communications to the core of the firms in which we work.
Chair Graham Munday kicked off proceedings by referring to
the KPMG 2016 US Customer Experience Excellence analysis
that shows those with the best customer experience achieve
double the five year growth of the largest companies.
Future of the professions
Professor Richard Susskind brought to life the key themes of his
recent book The Future of the Professions. His Scottish accent
softened the hard message he delivered in terms of the potential
impact of technology (particularly artificial intelligence) on the
future of the professions. Digital transformation featured in his
discussion of technology, trends and new models for the future
as he shared fascinating insights. His message was more about
redeployment rather than unemployment with Jack Welsh’s
quote “Change before you have to” providing all the advice we
Five elements of the golden age of marketing
I was not alone in considering Paul English of Grant Thornton’s
talk the best of the conference. Using McKinsey’s 5 S framework
(science, substance, story, speed and simplicity) he showed how
technology is putting marketers into a strong position to drive
digital transformation in their organisations. He considered
examples of marketing automation both within the professions
and beyond (eg. Bluprint and GetSmartContent) whilst looking
at key consumer campaigns that achieved an emotional connection.
What was possibly most fascinating were the insights he
shared into how Grant Thornton was using some of these ideas.
He mentioned the Global Jam co-creation exercise where the
entire business was involved in uploading 500 ideas in 72 hours.
He also shared a cartoon video – which achieved 1.7m views –
from the firm’s Spanish office which provided a positive view of
the country’s economy.
Creating a client journey
Ian Golding – one of the first people to have a professional qualification
in customer experience – talked about achieving clientcentricity
by testing every decision with “How does this impact
the client experience?”. He offered a model looking at the functional,
emotional and accessibility aspects of every client experience
and reminded us that clients remember good and bad
experiences – or nothing.
He touched on Simon Sinek’s golden circle (What, How and
Why?) and explored random, intentional and differentiated
client experiences. Professional services firms should be
concerned with his warning that there was no space for silos.
On mapping the client journey he offered a simple model:
the customer journey, the business processes and the technology.
He mentioned research from Watermark Consulting
that customer experience leaders outperform the market.
Creating an effective client experience framework
It was time for the first break-out session. Whilst others went to
sessions on brand propositions, digital client journeys, content
marketing and brand, I stayed in the main hall for Lee
Grunnell’s talk on creating a client experience framework.
He started with the three steps to distinctiveness: Articulate,
Communicate and Demonstrate before using a four stage model
of the client experience (Choosing, Using, Paying and Staying).
He then talked through his simple and elegant approach to
listing the touchpoints, identifying the buyers and agreeing the
priorities (personal, commercial and technical) in client experience
In terms of the elements of the client experiences he
explored empathy, expectations, integrity, personalities, resolution
and time/effectiveness. He referred to KPMG Nunwood UK
research showing the superior growth enjoyed by those companies
who were customer experience champions. He then shared
some simple toolkits for analysing the client journey in professional
service firms. He finished with the Three Es of superior
client experience (Expectation, Ease and Emotion).
The lunch break allowed plenty of time for some energetic
networking and catching up with old friends. Amongst the sponsors
were both long standing, trusted suppliers to the professions
as well as some welcome newcomers. Vuture’s tools which
now integrate with InterAction, Enable’s Pitchperfect system,
Acuigen’s client insight solutions, HighQ collaboration tools,
Mytton Williams brand consultancy, Purbrooks printing, ON24
webcasting and Emperor design. We are all grateful for their
support and commitment to the sector.
Reshaping the traditional business model
Alex Hamilton, putting on a brilliant performance despite
suffering from a heavy cold, told the compelling story of why
and how he co-founded Radiant Law.
His three key ideas – which raised a few wry smiles in the
audience – was for firms to a) make decisions, b) lose the billable
hour and c) stop taking all the money out of the business.
With catchy phrases such as “tacking away from the fleet”,
“deprogram new recruits”, “think like a magpie” (steal other
people’s ideas) and “failure is how you learn” he shared his
journey and candidly admitted that they got a lot wrong.
His key messages were around the need to focus on client
needs, innovation and technology, the insights obtained from
working with an NED from a different sector, value pricing and
taking a long term view.
During the questions, he talked about the things that
haunted him about the future strategy and upscaling (maintaining
the culture and legal technology) and explained how they
had really pushed decision-making down into the firm.
Managing your key accounts better
There was another breakout session at this point so I joined
around 20 others to hear what Fiona McCambridge of Redstone
Consultants had to say about key account management (KAM).
After explaining the three critical success factors of KAM
programmes – engaging senior leadership, client listening and
accountability she set us to work in three groups to discuss the
issues and solutions.
Sadly, the excellent workshop element meant that Fiona
didn’t have much time to talk through the fascinating insights
obtained from research with over 20 firms about KAM. No
doubt we will all download her slides to learn more.
Procurement and supplier relationships
Whereas in previous years the final panel comprised clients
talking about their experience of working with professional
service firms, this year the panel contained procurement experts
– from Standard Chartered Bank and AXA Insurance as well as
experts Stacey Coote and Alan Gotto (Constellia).
There was an animated discussion about what ‘adding value’
meant in reality. The importance of firms measuring value –
even if it means that they have strong experience of doing
similar work elsewhere – was a focus point. Demonstrating clear
savings and providing a clear sourcing strategy (“Kill my
tender”) were also mentioned. Yet everyone agreed that communication
and relationship were key.
Graham did an excellent job of summarising the highlights of
- The importance of storytelling
- Focus on what clients will remember
- Start at what matters to the client
- By 2020, most professional service providers will be working in systems
- Every client touch leaves a trace
I suppose my thoughts were similar. The onward march of
automation will provide us with a wealth of data about clients on
which to base our decisions. But what about the impact of Data
Protection and privacy? And will we have the time to use all of
the ‘big data’?
I was also struck about the potential divide in the future
between the need for a rational, analytical and systems-based
approach to marketing and the emotional, tailored and relationship
based approach to business development and client experience
management. The journey continues.
Kim Tasso is a management consultant, author and
journalist. Further information at www.kimtasso.com