Professional services organizations are in possession of specialized superior knowledge that their customers simply do not have. Their main product is knowledge. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that their competitive advantage hinges upon the quality of knowledge within their organization. Knowledge must be timely, accurate, relevant, tailored and proactive. This is what will set you apart from your competition.
The below is an extract from our new white paper “How to Use Current Awareness Technology to Gain Competitive Advantage”.
The importance of client awareness
According to a recent HBR Consulting survey, current awareness is ranked as the number one service provided by law libraries. We know that the professions are founded upon the holding and sharing of knowledge but what impact does client awareness actually have upon competitive advantage?
“It is our expectation that in contrast, where all libraries historically maintained roughly the same content and provided similar services, a transition has begun which creates a competitive advantage for select firms. Libraries that offer high-quality legal research services and products, augmented by practice-specific research and business development support, and do so in a cost-effective and efficient manner, will create that distinction.” (HBR Consulting, 2016)1
When we speak of an organization having good client awareness, we are saying that they are acutely aware of the ins and outs of their client’s activities, the activities of their client’s competitors, their client’s industry and any other factors that may impact upon their client, either now or in the future. Thus, client awareness builds up the reputation of client facing employees and, in turn, the reputation of the organization.
This then brings about the question of being reactive versus being proactive in your current awareness management. Which brings in more value?
Be ready, be reactive
Clearly it’s imperative to be reactive to news involving your clients. We see this happening in a number of ways - when a client calls up their representative, the respondent must know what’s been happening with that client and have a clear understanding of the client’s current situation right from the outset.
A lawyer, for instance, must go into each client meeting fully briefed and ready to advise. Imagine a fee-earner having to ask their client to fill them in or that client offering up information before they did, an embarrassing situation in an industry that essentially sells knowledge.
What’s more, the client themselves may well not be fully in the loop when it comes to the less obvious trends that will impact their business. Librarians have the perfect skillset for sourcing the most appropriate and the most relevant information. Even when that information is niche and hard to find.
“Librarians can search not just traditional sources like news and company databases and books, but also social media to locate where the interests of the firm and the potential client intersect, what they have in common and possibly what issues they are facing.” (Reynolds, C. et al., 2011)
Librarians are the ones who know the exact search criteria needed, the sources they can rely on (increasingly important in a world fighting against fake news), where to find the best quality content and how to interpret the results in a manner to suit the information consumer in question.
A proactive approach to client awareness
A proactive approach to client awareness means your organization is able to reach out to their client before they even know they need any support. In such a scenario, a Librarian sees a potentially detrimental trend emerging and warns their end user. The fee earner is then able to reach out and notify the client ahead of time.
This moves the focus towards advice and foresights, as opposed to saying “this has happened”. Instead of reacting to a client reaching out saying “I need you”, your end user is able to say “Mx Client, this issue is going to happen and here is my advice on how to address it.” (Dewey & Sullivan, 2015)
Being proactive requires that your organization and your coworkers know more than the obvious, enabling you to show that you are going that extra mile. Your client needs you and it’s key that they are aware of that. Indeed, taking a proactive approach may well develop into further business as your client finds a need for different services from another department in your organization.
Cross selling is key. It’s always worth looking out for potential connections to see how other practice groups or other sections of your business may be able to help your clients from the trends and patterns you find. Since the client hires the organization, and not solely one person, working collaboratively in this manner is vital.
To keep reading and discover how to use current awareness technology to gain competitive advantage download our new white paper here.