As recruiters we can often get very carried away with the notion of winning new business. But once the excitement of the chase and the thrill of the win are behind us (and we’ve put the fee up on the board), the once all-important clients often experience a serious case of neglect.
A few years ago when I was still managing a traditional recruitment business I conducted a piece of personal research where I asked all our clients for just one piece of feedback about their experience working with us.
There I was thinking we had some great (perhaps even watertight) relationships with most of our customers.
Who was I kidding?
Now whilst a few positive comments came back to me, the majority of the feedback (and I received close to 200 responses at the time) wasn’t exactly glowing.
These are some of the real customer comments from my survey:
You just don’t think outside the box.
The recruiter didn’t listen to what we really needed.
Promise. Promise. Promise. But I’m still waiting for the delivery.
Once I paid the invoice I clearly fell off your radar.
I haven’t heard from you in months.
You keep telling me you have the best candidates; and yet they never seem to be available and for whatever reason you still need to advertise.
For a 22.5% fee I really would have expected a bit more follow up
If this is what the clients who had taken the time to respond to me were thinking, imagine what the ones who couldn’t be bothered responding thought about us?
I was absolutely mortified.
If you asked all your existing clients for just one piece of feedback about their experience working with you, what do you think they would say?
How are you adding value to your customers today?
What are you doing as an organisation or as an individual recruiter every day that sets you apart … from a service delivery perspective?
The trick is knowing what ‘value’ means to your customers.
Let me ask you this: If you send an email to a client and you receive an automated out of office reply telling you they’re away on annual leave, do you know where they’ve gone? Did you even know they were going away? Did the out of office response surprise you?
What about this: You know the family photo that was in a frame on your client’s desk when you last went to visit them (hopefully in the last 12 months!), well do you know the names of the kids? Or the husband or wife?
There’s far more to knowing your client than just knowing what vacancy they have open right now, or how much money they’ve spent with you in the last year.
Agency owners, branch managers and team leaders probably won’t like me for this one (oh well!) but if all your KPIs link back to sales or recruiter activity, then unfortunately you may have some customers who are having thoughts like the ones I shared above.
What about having KPIs related to customer satisfaction or customer feedback? Or ones that measure repeat or referred business? Sure they will link to revenue but at least you will know you have happy clients.
Many years ago I sat next to Kirk. We recruited in exactly the same space and just split our clients alphabetically. He worked on clients A-K while I worked on clients L-Z.
Over a 12 month period we both did pretty well and billed almost exactly the same amount.
I’m not exaggerating here when I say that Kirk’s billings that year came from maybe 45 different clients – that means he was almost having to work with a different client every week.
The majority of my placements came from no more than 12 clients with some coming back to me (often exclusively) every month.
You could say that Kirk was more of a transactional recruiter (think “bums on seats”) while I like to think I was a consultative recruiter – going out of my way to add value and provide a service to all my clients.
I’m still in the game. Kirk bowed out a long time ago.
In other words do you think about your clients, or do you think for your clients?
Many recruiters will go into ‘customer service overdrive’ when they are working on filling a vacancy for a client. Constant phone calls; following up for feedback; email updates etc.
But if they are working on another brief because that other client doesn’t have any open vacancies then what happens?
You want to stay top of mind with all your clients. Not just the ones you happen to be working with.
One of my consultants had a client once who was absolutely obsessed with Mick Jagger. He even had a massive signed photograph framed in his boardroom.
Brian hadn’t worked with this particular client for a few months at the time the Rolling Stones came to Australia in 2003.
He sent his client a quick email. Something along the lines of “I know The Stones are in town. If you’re going to the concert, have fun mate!”
It turned out (of course) he was going to the concert. In fact he was taking a group of his clients and at the last minute one of them had cancelled. He offered Brian the ticket!
The following week he called Brian with a brief for a $140K position in his executive team.
He filled the role and the fee was $31,500!
See … it really is worth thinking about your clients even if they might not be working with you right now.
* * *
Having service related targets and not just revenue based targets can definitely help you build stronger client relationships (or what I like to refer to as ‘realationships’) as well as customer loyalty.
Without adding value, keeping top of mind, and focusing on service delivery you run the risk of lacking differentiation.
Remember you can compete on price, value, or both – but always demonstrate value through trust … after all you want your reputation to open doors not slam them shut.
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