Consultancy work can sometimes be quite an odd experience. For a start, there are typically only three reasons why someone hires you:
- They have a problem and they want your help to identify or develop a solution
- They have an idea of what they might like to do but need your help to make it happen
- They’ve already decided what they’re going to do and want you to validate that choice
These are all perfectly valid approaches, but clients (or potential clients) don’t always make it clear which level of support they need. If you start the engagement with differing expectations, you’re less likely to get the result you need.
Tip 1: Consider the three reasons above, decide which is closest to your needs and make that clear from the start. If you’re not sure, talk it through with any potential consultant before you engage with them.
Sometimes advisory meetings can be like job interviews – the client tells you what they think you want to hear, or what they wish was happening, rather than the reality. This may seem strange (why would someone hire you and then fail to tell you the whole truth?) but I think that sometimes it can be difficult to admit that things aren’t going as well as they should, even to the person you’ve hired to help you.
It’s hard to give the right advice if you don’t know the truth.
Tip 2: Be honest. A good consultant will get to the root of the problem eventually, but the more they know about what’s actually happening (or not happening) the less time they’ll waste having to find these things out themselves.
Sometimes we are engaged after a project has already begun or even after it has finished, to help identify why it didn’t deliver the expected results. There are all sorts of reasons why something may not work, but one of the most common is a lack of clarity about why something was done.
For example – An organisation updated its customer refund policy and needed to make sure that everyone in the organisation was aware of the change. The general gist of the communication was “we are changing our refund policy to make it simpler for customers”. Sounds simple.
We went through the policy, highlighting the changes and then asked the client to give the reason for each change – which they were able to do very articulately. However, when we asked them to describe how each change would benefit the customer, they were unable to do so. In fact the benefits all related to simplifying the administration and ultimately reducing the time and cost to the organisation. Once the true benefits were clear it was much easier to get the communication right.
Stating that something will benefit customers or staff, often feels somehow better than saying ‘it will make the admin easier’.
Tip 3: At the start of every project (whether or not you are working with a consultant) be clear about the intended benefits and for each one clarify who should feel that benefit.