Q: We've had some bumps with staff turnover; our more strategic level clients haven't accepted our team changes readily and I'm wondering how we should be handling it.
A: It's up to you to make it easy for your clients to adjust to your internal changes through understanding their needs and communicating effectively.
We've all seen it happen — Ted no longer works for the firm, but no one bothers to tell his clients. When they reach out, they get an e-mail bounceback. Are your clients having this experience? If so, you're setting them up to be dissatisfied. And even if their experience isn't this extreme, it can lead to a negative reaction. Your most important clients expect a high level of service, and you can use a transition to reinforce their status with you.
So, the first thing to do is look at the gap between the ideal client experience and the current results. Are they completely out of the loop? Being informed of the change, but in a fairly pro forma way? Or are they being assigned new contact people who are not as good a fit?
Taking each scenario in turn, consider the actions you could take. First, do you have complete and readily accessible information about your team's accounts? If someone left today, would you know which accounts need to be notified and who to reach out to? If not, that's your clear starting point.
Then consider the communication process. In some cases, you may not know the new team right away. That's OK, but it's still essential to reach out, let them know that Sally has left, and give them someone (you, perhaps) to contact when they need assistance. Your goal is to send a message that there is change afoot, that you care about their needs, and that they'll be looked after in the transition.
Next, select the right person to support them. Matching skills to their needs is necessary; at the same time, matching style and temperament can also ease the transition. Especially in a relationship that has been successful in the past, maintaining consistency is helpful. For example, a shift from very formal to more casual (or vice versa) could be somewhat jarring.
Once the new team or person is in place, it's up to you to monitor the success of the transition. Check in with clients, as well as your internal folks. Look for ways to adjust as needed, while also encouraging some patience as the new situation settles in.
Don't neglect your smaller clients, either. If your top clients are having issues, it's likely that others are also affected. Be sure you're informing them promptly about changes that may affect them. Check the tone of your communications by taking the time to read any form letters you may be sending. I've seen many that are surprisingly brusque; instead, you can use them to send a message that they're a valued customer.
It all comes down to planning. Being ready to manage transitions (they are inevitable). Putting the client first. And being diligent and thorough in executing the plan. Your clients will thank you!
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.