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Client focus: Overview
How do you gain client focus?
José realized that the best way he could learn about a client's world was to experience it. By talking to his client at work locations, José appreciated what it took to run his client's business, including daily challenges. A trip to a distribution center helped him to understand logistics; visiting the client's plant site provided insight to its manufacturing operations. On a trip to the company's research site, José learned about his client's vision.

This story illustrates what it sometimes takes to gain client focus for external clients. Client focus is an acute understanding of client needs and business objectives, and it is just as critical when dealing with internal clients.

of page What is client focus? Why is client focus important to IBM? Why is client focus important to you? What are client focus skills? How can you become skilled in client focus? What is client focus? Simply stated.This QuickView addresses these questions: q q q q q What is client focus? What are client focus skills? Why is client focus important to IBM®? Why is client focus important to you? How can you become skilled in client focus? Before you complete this QuickView. Outstanding IBM employees understand their clients by putting themselves in the client's situation. It is only by meeting and exceeding these expectations that you can ensure fully satisfied clients. employees with client focus "know the facts" about the client. consider checking your understanding of client focus with the QuickCase Preparing for client meeting. . but they also learn about the unexpressed or future needs of the client. Client focus: Basics top When working with clients. By doing so. This QuickCase puts you in a simulated business environment to help you apply the information from this QuickView. either within IBM or external to IBM. they not only see the client's needs and business objectives from the client's point of view. you must develop acute client focus to understand what clients expect from you.

They should strive to know IBM as an organization and culture. Clients tend to be loyal to organizations they believe are interested in their success. and be aware of company-wide strategies and processes. service. or solution that is quickly recognized as valuable to the client. such employees identify new business opportunities by finding a product. Analysis has shown that higher customer satisfaction results in increased revenue and profit. In addition. top of page Why is client focus important to IBM? Clients expect a certain level of performance from you and expect you to deliver according to agreements and contracts. Based on this understanding. by working in clients' marketplaces and truly understanding their needs. Knowing your client's needs and expectations enables you to offer better solutions. From an external perspective. Employees having client focus spend time with external clients and others in the marketplace to understand underlying. client focus makes good economic sense. and they are willing to pay more for this perceived value. you are likely to discover new business opportunities.Employees can start internally by understanding the environment of IBM and the industry. unmet needs as well as the stated requirements. . Employees should know key divisional and departmental targets and goals in order to best contribute to and support them.

top of page What are client focus skills? Employees with good client focus: q q Have a deep understanding of the client's world Are able to understand. Your needs. and thus made your client and your employer happy. and satisfy underlying and future needs of clients . By meeting your client's needs. IBM's needs are met because your client focus enables gaining and retaining a valuable client. Client focus enables you to do a good job by satisfying the following needs: q q q Client needs. your client focus enables you to do a good job in helping your of page Why is client focus important to you? Everyone likes to do a good job. identify. Your needs are met because you have excelled in your job. IBM needs.

and help your client identify solutions that could help achieve the client's goals. show the client that you have thought about those problems and have ideas for solving them. Can you pleasantly surprise clients with whom you do business? top of page Client focus: FAQs . positive. You are expected to be honest. Know what is valuable to your client. Analyze industry data for trends. to the industry. Go beyond the professional relationship you customarily have with your clients.q q Identify solutions that go beyond the client's request or expectation and add significant value Take responsibility to solve client problems top of page How can you become skilled in client focus? The following actions can improve your client focus performance: q q q q q Ask questions and listen to the answers. Former IBM CEO John Akers once said that beyond satisfying client requirements. to the client's fiercest competitor. Know what your client expects from you. and trustworthy. Further. Develop and demonstrate that you have a keen insight into not just your client's business but your client's problems. Become a known expert about your client--from the stock symbol. IBM should "delight" them. Do your homework.

it is often because something went wrong.I have multiple internal and external clients. and following the change-control process. but my manager and I have discussed my need to further develop my skills in this area. you might need to review this with your management. it is vitally important from the beginning that you and your client have the same understanding of what the contract specifies. I want to go "above and beyond" for my client. challenging the contract. How can I exhibit client focus when I spend so much time solving problems? A client crisis indicates a need for additional client focus. When I get involved in direct client negotiations." However. I understand the basic concepts of client focus. As a result of your communication. concentrate on the most important ones. To avoid a crisis and gain client focus. If you cannot develop the focus you would like for every client you have. . understanding the scope. Note that each characteristic builds on the preceding one. you will minimize conflict and possibly identify new opportunities. Understanding your client's business and being committed to the client's success might mean investigating the contract. but it seems to conflict with the contract scope of work. How can I achieve a higher level of client focus? The employee characteristics shown in the following graphic demonstrate varying levels of client focus. initiate contact with clients when problems have not occurred." How can I improve client focus in this environment? Clients are usually reasonable when they realize they are asking for something "not in the contract. We have been asked to "just say no. How do I develop client focus for all of them? The solution is to prioritize. If you feel that you have too many clients. But do not neglect the others.

Read the following list and place yourself in a category. and identify some of the areas in which you can improve your client performance skills. This includes these behaviors: q q q q Takes personal responsibility for resolving client issues or entering complaints in the Complaint Management Tool (CMT) Ensures that clients' immediate technical needs or complaints are satisfied Corrects client problems but does not anticipate future concerns or issues Provides the products and services requested by the client Demonstrated competence: Is responsive to clients and gets others to focus on adding value for clients. This includes these behaviors: q q q Helps others make decisions based on value-add for the client Demonstrates to others that customer satisfaction is the first priority Communicates complex technological issues in a way that clients can understand Strength: Cooperates with others across the organization to serve the client. Needs development: Is responsive to client requests but is not proactive in identifying underlying needs. Study the category that is one level higher than the category that you currently placed yourself in. This includes these behaviors: .

Client focus: Tips/Traps Tips Adopt the following behaviors to enhance your relationship with your client: The next time you get your paycheck or pay statement. unmet needs of clients Helps IBM clients to better serve their customers Review the Survey and Action Plan for Client Focus in the Tools section of this QuickView. university researchers. Be proactive. imagine that your client authorized it.q q q Works with other departments to provide the winning solution for the client Collaborates outside one's own business segment to develop the best product or service for the client. industry consultants. This includes these behaviors: q q q q q q Continually seeks information about clients' underlying or future needs Anticipates clients' future needs and acts to meet them Understands clients well enough to describe their business from their point of view Develops the winning technological and business innovation or approach to meet the needs of a client Learns about the marketplace from multiple industry sources (for example. Schedule regular meetings with your client. Think. and show your enthusiasm for their business and your concern for their problems. and your immediate manager can be quite insightful. Do not wait for a problem to get involved. Without clients. direct reports. Show the client that you are committed to them by commenting on industry articles you have read q q q q . and talk positively about your clients. act. IBM's business does not exist. This data can help you select the specific behaviors you want to improve. The results of this self-assessment and the feedback from colleagues. without regard for personal credit or measurements Sets aside favorite projects as well as personal differences with others in various departments to work together to serve the client Extraordinary strength: Understands a client's unexpressed business needs and finds ways to meet them. and competitors) and through direct interaction with clients to understand the underlying.

use this as a reason to schedule a meeting. consider the following statement when you make your response: "When appropriate. . Today's competitor might be tomorrow's client or business partner! Do not hesitate to get to know your clients. Traps Avoid the following behaviors that can damage your relationship with your client: Do not disparage a competitor to keep a client. I act this way with great effectiveness." 1=Almost always 2=Frequently 3=Sometimes 4=Seldom 5=Almost never Remember that your client can be within IBM or external to IBM.that relate to the client's business or problems. A complete understanding of the client's needs and expectations is critical to your ability to ensure customer satisfaction. The following two tools are available to you to assess your progress: Survey for client focus Action plan for improvement Survey for client focus To assess yourself on the characteristics in the following tables. they must be able to stand on their own merit. q q Client focus: Tools Assessing yourself on your client focus characteristics and building an action plan for improving your client focus are two very important tasks in developing client focus. Tell the truth about your products and services. Clip articles that might be helpful to the client.

Behavior I develop solutions that go beyond the client's request or expectation and add significant value. and the experience could discourage you from further effort. I know my client's most-profitable product. Yes No . you risk failure. I can name my client's top three competitors. I take responsibility to solve client problems. Choose "Yes" or "No" for each statement. I can tell you yesterday's closing stock price for my client. Other indicators of competence Frequency of practice The following behaviors related to the Client focus competency help set specific improvement goals. Action plan for improvement The following four steps listed can help you build an action plan for improvement. I know my client's strategies and goals for next year. Behavior I have a copy of my client's current annual report. Challenge yourself. If you try to do too much. My client knows that IBM is key to their success. One caution: Do not try to do too much at once. Even if you feel that you need to improve in several characteristics. I strive to understand and to satisfy underlying and future needs of clients. I know how my client advertises. I stay focused on creating a deep understanding of the client's world. but be sensible about what you can reasonably accomplish. you are more likely to succeed if you select just one or two that you feel strongest about and concentrate on those. I know where my client's world headquarters is located. I know what my client's CEO looks like. An employee with good client focus should also answer "Yes" to all of these behaviors when the client is IBM.

Define the specific behaviors you want to improve. Create an action plan for improvement by using the following form. Be sure to include details. and milestones. q q q q Competency action planning worksheet Goal: Actions Target date: . q q q Set a goal. your peers. Use the information provided in the other sections of this QuickView for tips about determining what activities you will engage in. other persons involved. Consider what you are doing today. Ask your mentor to monitor and to provide feedback to you about the characteristics you want to improve. such as resources required. and your manager for similar feedback. Explore options. Select an upcoming event where you know you will have a chance to demonstrate characteristics related to client focus. for such feedback. Ask your client. Ask your direct reports. q q q q q Do you regularly practice client focus behavior? Does it show in a positive sense? Can you motivate your team members to act positively with respect to client focus? Build an action plan. if appropriate. Specify the date by which you plan to take action. Look for additional opportunities to practice behaviors related to client focus. if appropriate.

She briefed her manager after these sessions. Dawn personally performed additional work to provide the client with the type of report wanted. had an internal client who was concerned that an advertised feature of a particular software program did not function as it should. Dawn's story "Taking responsibility" Dawn. He persisted and got the vendor to do a workaround before this "fix" was released to the public.Goal: Actions Goal: Actions Goal: Actions Notes: Target date: Target date: Target date: Client focus: Stories The following stories illustrate IBM employees who demonstrate client focus skills. agreed with the client. This client was extremely pleased to receive an itemized bill rather than a report of total weekly charges. The system was not set up to provide this information. so Dawn went through all of this client's charges on a weekly basis and itemized them. As a result. a software engineer. Greg went outside the usual boundaries and escalated his client's problem to those who could resolve it. Greg investigated the problem. . Greg's story "Taking charge" Greg. Mary asked for and received permission to attend her client's executive briefings about technical directions. helping the team to develop sound strategies for IBM solutions. Mary took extraordinary steps to understand how her client viewed the future. relates the time she had a client who wanted detailed information about charges in billing reports. Mary's story "Knowing your client" As a trusted client representative. he both surprised and elated his client. a team lead in Global Services. and took the initiative to contact the third-party vendor directly.

Back Print Terms of use . The sale was a huge success!" Karin's team realized that IBM's success ultimately depends on the success of IBM's clients. It also helped me to find out if they were positioned for competitive advantage. an IBM sales executive. We knew how important this event was to the client's business. ahead.Rich's story ""Knowing the industry" Rich regularly accompanied his clients to industry trade shows to understand the direction of a particular industry and the position of any clients in it." says Karin. "This was my way of finding out if my clients were moving with. They were prepared to commit time and resources in an extraordinary way to retain a valued client. We assembled a team of IBMers across the country and worked all weekend with the client to fix the problem. "But the previous Friday." Rich demonstrated to his clients that he was committed to helping them succeed. the client could not load the sale prices into the cash registers. Karin's Team story "Pulling it together" "The client had planned a big national sale and promotion to take place on Monday morning. He also gained knowledge of his clients' industries that was invaluable in creating sales strategies tailormade for their business. or behind the competition.

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