Is Your Organization Really Client Focused? Answer These 14 Questions

I once advised a large professional services firm that wanted to reinvigorate its growth. Their slogan, which was plastered on posters and coffee mugs, was “Keep the Focus on the Client.” Like many organizations, however, there was a big gap between what management said and what people actually did. The most coveted career paths, for example, led to managing increasing larger numbers of employees and infrastructure, not overseeing more client relationships.

I asked to see the timesheets of the top 10 leaders in the company, and I reviewed how much time each of them spent meeting with prospects, current clients, or even working behind the scenes with client teams. The average was one percent. I told them that number should be more like 20 or 30 percent. And, that it was very unlikely their “Client Focus” program would gain traction if their leadership spent close to zero time with clients.

Spending time answering email…or meeting with clients?

So, how would you answer these questions about your own organization? 

  1. What fraction of their time do your top executives actually spend with key clients? (depending on the role, it ought to be 20-50%)
  2. Are clients regularly discussed at your firm’s leadership meetings?
  3. How much power are relationship managers given in order to act on their clients’ behalf?
  4. Is there a gap between senior management’s pronouncements about “client focus” and its actual policies and actions?
  5. Does the firm do anything to independently verify the success of its relationships? (e.g., market research, independent reviews, etc.)
  6. Does the firm have metrics to assess relationship health? (e.g., retention, breadth, relationships with decision makers, number of referrals, NPS, etc.)
  7. Are professionals allowed discretionary time and budget to build networks and relationships that may have little short-term payoff?
  8. Does an interest in and focus on clients pervade the organization and extend beyond those professionals who are managing client relationships? (e.g.—to receptionists, administrative and support staff, functional specialists in IT, legal, and so on?)
  9. Do your own functional heads build relationships with their counterparts at your very largest clients? And, do they ever get involved in client engagements in their area of expertise? (e.g., in Finance, HR, L&D, Operations, etc.)
  10. Do clients tell you it’s easy to do business with your company?
  11. Is your organization structure client-centric? Are single clients and client markets major focal points for the organization?
  12. Do people actively seek out client feedback and even criticism, or do they run from it or cover it up? (e.g., for feedback surveys, they only give you the names of their most raving fans but omit clients who may be in some way dissatisfied)
  13. Do your professionals willingly and naturally collaborate around client relationships?
  14. At the end of the year, how much arguing or conflict is there around getting credit for revenue generation and client relationship success? (If there is a lot of disagreement about this, it may be hard to get people to collaborate to serve clients!)


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