Editorial: Tune up your responsiveness

Apr 04, 2013

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310) Issue # 1002 Originally published 4/8/2013 There are many things you can’t control, but this one you can. Here are seven ways you can be more responsive. You know, in this crowded A/E field we all work in there are many variables we cannot control. You cannot control salary caps some state agencies have. You cannot control maximum allowable overhead rates other government agencies may require. You cannot control starting salary expectations, health insurance rates, the prices your competitors are willing to sell their services for, the going rate for office space in your town, the payroll tax rates that you have to pay, etc. There are constraints that most people in this business servicing particular clients and living in a specific area will have to work with. These constraints may make it difficult to achieve a real competitive advantage. But there are things you CAN do, regardless of the rest of this stuff. One of those things – a significant differentiator that will make your clients LOVE you – is to simply be more responsive. Here are some ideas on how to make a responsiveness culture a reality: 1) Get someone great on the front desk – someone who understands that client inquiries and problems need to be dealt with swiftly. 1) Don’t turn your phone off. This is especially true if you are the boss. People need to reach you. Clients don’t want to wait. 2) Have a policy that between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. all calls and emails will be either answered immediately or responded to within 15 minutes. 3) Only promote people into principal roles who are as committed as you are. Leadership by example is so critical that you cannot allow anyone at a leadership level who doesn’t have responsiveness as their middle name. 4) Celebrate the examples of employees who respond quickly. 5) Buy smartphones for every single employee in the firm. 6) Make sure the “click here for more information” link on the company’s website is being sent to someone who will respond immediately. Ditto for your company Facebook fan page. Inquiries there have to be monitored and responded to quickly. A couple weeks ago we were doing a Principals Academy seminar and I had one of the attendees argue with me about whether or not they should have to keep their phone on at night and respond to calls or emails. I’m not the one setting the rules here! Your clients are. The competitive nature of the business today is. Don’t write me your hate letters. Either get on board or get left behind. The choice is all yours. Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

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