Outrageous Success


Ann Kieffaber recently retired from the healthcare practice at Accenture as a Managing Director working out of the Hartford, Connecticut office. Before that, she worked for IBM. In both roles, she was charged with helping the largest healthcare organizations transform how they collect, understand and use data. Whenever she started an engagement, she asked herself one powerful question: How do I create outrageous success for my clients?

Outrageous Success

Create outrageous success by understanding what your customer wants.

I love that. Ann doesn’t just look to create success but looks instead to create outrageous success—the kind of success that clients shout from the rooftops (recommending Ann’s team to peers across the industry). It got me thinking. What would be my formula be for creating success?

Under Promise and Over Deliver

The alpha and omega of consulting is the quality delivery of services. Does that mean working nights and weekends to deliver the best possible solution? Yes. But it also means being mindful of how a project is defined at its start. I have a friend who says client satisfaction is all about putting time into the scope. He will write up a statement of work and review it with the client, taking notes on their input. Then he will sit down with the client (no passive emails — “revised Statement of Work attached”) and go over the scope a second time, saying, “I want to understand this. The project will feel like a success to you if we do the following three things? If those three things happen, you will feel like this was money well spent?” A client whisperer, he is embedding the language of success in his clients’ heads. Then he checks in with the clients periodically over the course of the engagement and reiterates how they have defined success and the progress that is being made. Finally, and this is the crucial part, he does more than promised. That is what makes clients say, ‘Wow!’”

Move the Needle

Consultants get “A’s” for results, not for effort. Clients hire expert service providers to do a job, and that job is always tied to an operational result whether or not they make this second goal explicit. The client might hire you to launch a social strategy around content or ask you to install a point of sale system in all of their retail locations, but in either case, they are really hiring you to boost revenues or increase efficiencies. While some companies are explicitly driven by managers’ ability to “make the business case” for an expense while other companies are less focused on demonstrating a return on every investment, ROI is never far from the door. Is this project going to drive revenues in the short or long term, or is it going to save the company money and therefore drive greater profits?

Be Mindful If Clients Are Managing the Upside or the Downside

Ann makes an important point: Some clients define success as being “on time and under budget.” Others want a project to drive differentiation and are looking for leading-edge solutions. The ability to understand the personality of those you hope to serve is important not just for landing the assignment, but also for driving success.

Live and Die for Your Client

Clients will not give you an “A” for effort if you do not drive results in their organization. That said, they do want to see you bust your tail on their behalf. No one wants to think their project is easy, high margin work for which they are, perhaps, overpaying. They want to see you work. That is because work is a proxy for your commitment — that you are “all in.” Why is that important? Because they’re all in. Their careers are on the line, and they want to see that you are acting like your career is on the line as well.

How about you? How do you create outrageous success for your clients?