Keep it quiet but I’m a virtual cheater!
First of all, I’m a virtual business. That is to say I’m not physically based in my client’s offices. In some cases I’m hundreds of miles away so I can’t walk down the corridor and tap on a door to speak with a client.
Instead, we communicate by email. We also use a really old fashioned device called a telephone and actually speak to each other. Most of the time that is good enough because normally, as a consultant surgeon, my client is either with a patient or in theatre. So I can’t exactly knock on the door anyway.
So why do I refer to myself as a virtual cheater?
Simple. I also go meet my clients every three months or so and have a face to face meeting with them. Its important for both the consultant and I this happens. Why?
Because over a coffee or a lunch you can talk through any strategic decisions that have or are coming up. More important than that though, you actually get to know how the client feels. For example: am I delivering what they expect of me? How do they feel about the service for which they are paying? Are there any areas where the client is expecting more or sometimes less results? It gives me a chance to ask the questions and listen to what is being said. And it gives me chance to respond.
Its worth it just to listen. And listen intently.
Not with a view to interrupting but with a view to fully understanding what the client is thinking and saying. And why.
It would be very easy for me to only send reports by email to a client and ask for comments. I do that every month anyway and sometimes the client responds with queries. Most of the time, he or she doesn’t. The quarterly meetings (sometimes only twice a year with some clients) makes it much easier to produce excellent results for my client.
For example: I have one client who does not want an excess payment chased from any elderly patient under any circumstances. Excess payments for all other clients are to be processed every week as standard. He mentioned this to me at the first meeting we held after I started working for him – 3 months after I started working for him! Another client isn’t bothered about the age of the patient and wants excess amounts chased just as soon as possible. A third client likes to hear which patients have an excess, how much and then decides if they can be chased.
I don’t mind which. I should though because the more the client gets paid, the more I can charge the client. But its the client’s business and not mine.
Yet all three examples were only identified because, even though I’m a virtual business, I went to meet the client. I listened to precisely what the client wanted and then did it. Even then there are items which require clarification and sometimes email is not the best medium to use.
Modern technology is great. It really is. I can both send and receive so much data it is untrue. I can check a fee on-line in a matter of seconds (I guess it does help that I’ve got access to all the insurance company fee structures though) I can send weekly reports to clients without breaking into a sweat even.
Yet all these to me are support roles for nothing ever will or should even match the usefulness of actually meeting and making every effort to listen and understand what the client is thinking. You cannot get the same level of understanding from email. You may get close after speaking on the telephone but in my view you can’t as a virtual business beat actually talking face to face with a client.
Told you I was a virtual cheater.