leaf smlROBIN’S BLOG

Robin has 30 years of professional and financial services marketing experience. Here he provides commentary about some of the key evolving issues within professional services strategy and marketing.  The aim is to provoke thinking and provide useful information that marketers can use within their firms as they continue to improve performance.

thriving… Improving marketing, business development, client satisfaction, and financial performance.

Ditch the billable hour?

I was pleased and flattered to be asked to contribute to a new book.

Ditch The Billable Hour! Implementing Value-Based Pricing in a Law Firm – Shaun Jardine (hawksmoorpublishing.com)

Don’t let the fact I contributed put you off, my input was only about 0.25% of the whole! A very interesting take on a strategic approach to the pricing of legal services, and basing this on the value to the client, not the time taken. The book covers the strategy, culture and change management efforts needed but the potential rewards – not only financial but work-life and career enjoyment – for everyone in the firm, are substantial.

Emerging key themes from clients of professional service firms

It’s very noticeable that we’re seeing some increasingly common and important themes from feedback given by clients of professional services firms.

Hugely abbreviated, the key needs are these:

  1. Better project management
  2. Better communication of progress and status
  3. More use of technology to allow self service and ‘close to real-time’ information updates

Client contacts of firms are under pressure to achieve speed, and efficiency. Firms that don’t get this are going to lose work.

Managing for success…

My article on how law firms can ask the right questions of clients, in order to boost their performance and the health of the firm, has just been published in the Law Society’s magazine, “Managing for Success”. Take a look at the article here

Is gaining customer feedback always a good idea?

Normally, of course I’d say yes. However…

In my (driving) life I’ve had more cars from one marque/brand than any other – five in fact. Bit of an advocate really. Until a recent experience. Won’t bore you with the detail, but for the best part of 2 months I was unable to use the car for anything more than a short trip. It’s cost me a fair bit, and mistakes at the dealer, misdiagnosis of the fault, and delay in getting parts have made me, to use a technical term, grumpy.

The brand has sent me an online survey after each experience at the dealer. The emails are headed “we care about you.” They’ve also called to ask for my feedback. So far so good.

I’ve responded to the survey giving pretty poor scores and explaining my experience, and spent 10-15 minutes answering a call (in a separate process) giving more detail, and noting the impact on how I felt about the brand. I said that my faith in the brand had been shaken and the person on the phone promised to escalate it, and promised a customer services person would call me back.

One month later, guess what has happened.


This strikes me as a situation where ‘doing the process’ – i.e. getting the feedback, getting some scores, ticking the boxes – is seen as achieving the aim. But the whole point is to enable you to resolve customer issues.  They have signally failed to do that. Nobody is accountable for the follow-up.

So, its worth just thinking again about ‘how do we USE the information we get from customer feedback?’ ‘what changes as a result?’, ‘who is accountable for following up? and ‘how does the customer or client feel afterwards?’.

I may not have bought or leased another car from the brand. Now I almost certainly won’t. So, if you’re going to say ‘we care’ but then demonstrate you don’t, it’s probably not a good idea to ask for feedback.

Work life balance and New Year resolutions

The events of the last few years have made many of us think about improving work-life balance and our wellbeing. Some research we did last year flagged up the widespread risk of ‘burn-out’ amongst staff in professional services. So this link includes our thoughts on some New Year resolutions worth considering for those managing firms or wanting to reduce the risk of burn-out

The importance of the right measure

“GDP” is back in the headlines again after the news that the UK is (probably) in recession, and ex PM Liz Truss’s comments about wanting to “grow the pie”, irrespective of how it is distributed.

I have a couple of problems with GDP as the “be all and end all” measure, being:

  1. Growing it is all well and good, but what if huge swathes of the population don’t gain a share of that growth?
  2. Study after study suggests that, after a certain point, more wealth doesn’t mean more happiness.

Does any country look at it differently? Yes, they do. Bhutan doesn’t focus as much on Gross Domestic Product as it does on GNH. Gross National Happiness.

Not a bad idea. See more about it here.



Pricing, profitability, and value to the client

We’ve just done a study with 68 participants from professional services firms, about approaches to pricing and the impact on profitability.

One of the things that struck me was the examples given of the most profitable matters and relationships. When people talked about how they approached pricing, all of these took into account the broader context – i.e. not just “what’s our hourly rate.” In the most successful examples, people had understood the value to the client, understood what the client really wanted to achieve, had a sense of competitor pricing, and been absolutely transparent in nailing the real deliverables of value.

These tended also to be the firms who were confident about future profitability.

Doing good

As the founder director of Thriving, it feels pretty good to reflect on the fact we’ve raised about £10000 over the past year for various causes, including over £1000 for the people of Ukraine.

I know its very little compared to what major PLCs may raise, and sometimes it feels like it may be a drop in the ocean – but on the other hand, it’s definitely helped people dealing with huge challenges and sadness.

All of us can do more good. It’s not particularly difficult. It just requires a bit of will and energy.

Value for money

Value for money continues to be one of the most misunderstood aspects of providing professional service.

And, when clients rate their firm’s performance, it’s very often the aspect that is rated most lowly.

These things are not unconnected. Take a look at our free insight and articles section (under the services tab) to see some of the reasons why, and what you can do about it.


The European Super League and selective deafness

Writing this as the short-lived idea of a European Super Football league comes crashing down.

There couldn’t be a clearer example of a strategy and objective created internally. Without thinking of stakeholders. Without understanding customer needs. Without consulting. And perhaps most dramatically, without asking or clearly recognising what fans/customers/the market VALUES in what you do.

There was such a gulf between what the architects of this idea focused on and what their most loyal supporters wanted. It’s a salutary lesson for any business in developing its aims or strategy without listening and taking on board feedback from its customers and major stakeholders.

Internally driven strategy without being sense-checked? Very expensive mistake. Listen to your customers.

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