One management consultant for a boutique professional services firm said he sometimes compared competition between his company and larger competitors to a mouse scrambling between the legs of a herd of elephants. Children’s cartoons to the contrary, elephants aren’t really scared of mice. Still, boutique professional services firms can capitalize on some important advantages to compete with larger players.
What is a Boutique Professional Service Firm?
Professional services firms may offer investment, accounting, legal, consulting, or other kinds of professional advice. Typically, smaller than the top competitors in their industry, a boutique firm will stand out by specializing in specific types of services or industries or applications.
For example, some boutique consulting firms might specialize in healthcare, government, or energy consulting. They may also drill even deeper by concentrating on data management, logistics, or some other horizontal focus.
How Boutique Professional Services Firms Typically Gain Business: Land and Expand
At least one-third of larger firms have reported losing business to boutique competitors. On the other hand, some observers say that these smaller companies may not directly lure business away from their bigger rivals. At least, they don’t necessarily start gaining business by trying to compete with larger firms for the exact same services.
The smaller consulting companies may attract clients at first because they can provide tightly focused niche services. Often, their larger competitors concede on these specialized offerings because the economies don’t work for them. Big firms also tend to have larger overheads to support so they have to provide services that appeal to the volume and kinds of clients that can sustain them.
At some point, clients who felt satisfied with these niche services may eventually move more and more of their consulting needs to the niche firm, even though that’s not why they started working with them in the first place. In that case, some formerly very specialized firms may expand with more general services. That’s when the larger firm will start to lose business and not when one of their clients initially sought a niche service that the large firm didn’t even offer.
What Other Competitive Advantages Can Niche Consulting Firms Offer Clients?
It’s plain to see how boutique consultants can get their foot in the door by specializing in areas that competitors may not offer. How can these smaller firms keep that business and even expand upon it once they have gotten past introductions? Some clients mention that boutique firms may cost less, though that’s not always true. They tend to have shallower organizations, so instead of typically dealing with junior consultants and having senior partners supervise, clients are more likely to have more access to experienced members of the team.
Besides these benefits, smaller firms tend to excel in innovation and adaptability, two very important features in this age of digital transformation. More than other positives of working with boutique firms, clients can gain the most advantages by adapting some of the characteristics of the smaller consulting firms.
To illustrate this, look at the value of digital transformation and intellectual capital to most boutique professional services companies:
In the Information Age, all organizations need to understand how they can use and build upon their own digital infrastructure to work more efficiently, satisfy customers, and grow their market share. Boutique firms that already emphasize these qualities are in a better place to share their experiences with their clients.
Very often, these smaller consulting groups have relied on better tech to provide the edge they can use to gain traction over much larger — but more traditional — rivals. Through this experience, they can pass on insights to their clients.
Valuing Intellectual Capital
Smaller consulting firms typically already value their intellectual capital as not just their main asset but also their most important offering. Not only can they excel by providing thought leadership but also by demonstrating that they know how to manage and protect information and when the time is right, to share it.
They also understand that the true importance of their information doesn’t stem from the knowledge of just one or a few people. Boutique firms can excel because they’re good at sharing ideas, reaching consensus, and communicating and collaborating. They have the processes and the software in place to help them protect information and then use that data to work together. That too, is a positive trait that boutique firms can pass on to their clients.
How M-Files Serves Professional Services and Clients
At M-Files, we offer secure and smart information management systems for professional services firms, such as accountants and business consultants. It can be a competitive advantage because you can use our tools to provide your clients with the information they need, when they need it. Our state-of-the-art security will help build your reputation as a firm who knows how to protect your own information and your client’s valuable data. We also make information seamless by easily integrating with popular business tools from Oracle, SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft, and many more.
Yes, you read that right!
Reading people’s minds is a superpower that most of us would love to have. While social listening is not exactly mind reading, it is as close as it gets for modern business leaders.
In today’s sense-and-respond environment, the importance of customer experience cannot be overemphasized. You must know what your customers are saying about your organization—how much do they love your brand? Are they satisfied with your services? What’s bothering them the most?
However, despite having a digital presence and a willingness to transform customer experiences, efforts often fall flat. Sound relatable? Keep reading to learn how you can bridge the gap between expectations and reality.
Quick Rewind … What’s Social Listening?
As the name suggests, social listening allows you to figure out what your audience is saying on your different channels and track conversations as well as mentions related to your brand, your peers, and their products and services. With the right approach, you can analyze the gathered data and take immediate actions in response.
Why Don’t Brands Listen? Where’s the Gap?
With the overwhelming amount of noise on social media platforms and other customer engagement channels, including phone, live chats, messaging apps, SMS, and websites, separating the signals from the noise becomes a daunting task. Organizations often:
- Fail to deliver personalized experiences across the customer journey
- Lack an omnichannel approach to reach out to customers
- Lack access to contextually accurate information
- Do not have a scalable customer experience strategy
And all this often leads to dissatisfied or lost customers.
Let’s Take a Look at Statistics on Customer Service
- 82% of consumers look for an immediate response from brands on marketing or sales questions
- 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand
- Customers switching companies due to poor service cost U.S. companies a total of $1.6 trillion
These statistics highlight the importance of being where your customers are and leveraging the right technology to deliver consistent, contextual, and omnichannel customer engagement.
Leverage Digital and Social Sensing for Listening to Your Customers Anytime, Anywhere
To help you meet your customers’ expectations, an integrated digital and social sensing solution—backed by machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities is the key. The solution will help you understand the pulse of your customers’ needs and:
- Understand their point of view and expectations from your organization
- Monitor and capture cross-channel conversations
- Analyze each interaction’s content and context to provide meaningful insights
- Analyze important keywords and identify the right sentiments
- Send and track relevant communications
The Final Word
The time is now for you to shift your focus from process or channel to your customers, and understand their needs, expectations, and perceptions to be able to successfully transform their experiences.
Along with so many dramatic changes the coronavirus pandemic has abruptly introduced into our daily lives, a lot more business has moved to the internet. Because of social distancing, millions of employees have exchanged their commutes for a home office. At the same time, all sorts of companies have seen an explosion of traffic to their eCommerce and online service sites.
During this time, businesses have been forced to rapidly shift both their marketing and servicing channels. Because of the abrupt change, not all of companies have the right structure in place to keep up.
How Extreme is the Growth in Customer Service Requests?
While the digital transformation in the way we work and shop has gradually occurred over the past several years, its evolution has suddenly exploded. This change has led at least one digital business analyst to ironically wonder if the digital transformation was quite ready for the digital transformation. And perhaps this change has been felt most dramatically in the area of customer service.
For instance, Ted Smith serves as the Senior Director of Zendesk Market Intelligence. All over the world, Zendesk services about 23,000 companies. According to their data, all kinds of businesses have experienced a spike in customer service requests.
These are examples of activity changes that Zendesk recently reported upon:
- Not only has the number of help desk tickets grown by 24% since 2019, Zendesk has also noticed extreme spikes right after new government announcements or sudden increases in the number of infected people.
- As you might expect, critical or essential businesses have experienced the highest surges in the number of requests, with an overall increase of 133% since February of 2020.
Why Businesses Struggle with an Increased Load in Customer Service Requests
During the outbreak, many consumers feel as taxed as the rapidly evolving businesses that need to serve them. That’s also likely to mean that they’re less likely to forgive delays and frustrations than they might under normal conditions. At the same time, an increased load has made customer service departments even more vulnerable to experiencing issues.
It’s not just a heavier load. Some businesses did not have the right tools in place to accommodate their new remote workforce. Thus, scrambling employees have had turned to disparate and ad-hoc solutions. If your business still relies upon paper files, scanned files, file sharing through various free cloud storage accounts, or email attachments, you’re wasting your employee’s and your customer’s time. As well as wasting time with inefficient searches, these old-fashioned methods of capturing, storing, and locating data will also be more likely to cause errors because of version control and data entry problems.
How Companies Can Adapt Quickly to a Rapidly Changing Business Environment
Out of all of the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic, businesses that can adapt should emerge from this current crisis much stronger. McKinsey research has found that 70% of customers cited poor customer service experiences as a reason for switching brands. Businesses that can retain their brand reputation and build a more agile workforce will prevail. When businesses can sustain themselves during these trying times, just imagine how much better they can perform after the economy begins to find stability again.
Enterprise-quality information solutions like M-Files will not only make it easier to find documents across all sorts of devices and storage mediums, they will help catch errors that erode data quality. These systems will even send alerts or information to facilitate the next stage of the business process automatically.
Better yet, users can have the freedom to access their information remotely and from a variety of different devices. At the same time, sophisticated security rules ensure that only the right people access the information they need. Version tracking can also make auditing and catching irregularities in data use a breeze.
B2B and B2C Businesses Need Efficient Information Management
Perhaps best of all, these intelligent solutions will ensure simple sharing across all departments and other stakeholders. I recently wrote about a B2B business example of poor customer service experience to illustrate that business customers need to be served as well as retail ones. I mentioned how I had clearly explained to salespeople how I needed a certain SaaS company to solve hmy business issues.
The sales team appeared to offer the right solution, but when I made the purchase and got transferred to the customer service team responsible for getting me set up, they hardly appeared aware of my needs, making for an inefficient and frustrating experience. A better information management system would have automatically sent this team such critical information as my questionnaire response, meeting notes, and any information I had previously requested and received.
In the example above, good tools would have enabled a more efficient and satisfying process. The account team could have represented their company better and even more important, kept the customer satisfied enough not to recount this anecdote at conventions. You can imagine that this kind of experience would have also frustrated a retail consumer who may have felt frustrated after purchasing a new car, HVAC system, or insurance policy.
Is your business ready for intelligent information management?
“We want to steer towards a digital ecosystem,” “We aim to deliver delightful customer experience,” “We look forward to deploying cutting-edge technologies,” – I often come across these statements while interacting with executives across various industries. And, all these goals have a common underlying message – digital transformation is their organization’s priority.
Digital transformation unarguably has become a critical part of the boardroom agenda for organizations of all sizes and scales. However, 54% of organizations are still struggling with digital transformation initiatives*. There’s a clear divide between digitally determined and digitally distraught organizations. While reaching the “digital nirvana” is a priority for all, a handful of leaders understand digital transformation in the right spirits.
Remember, Digital Transformation is Not Monolithic!
Digital transformation is not about getting hands-on more and more technology. Instead, it’s about ditching those tired and redundant tactics and making a way where innovation can truly ride.
To make the transformative shift, it thus becomes important to dig-in a little deeper and you’ll realize that real digital transformation is not monolithic; it touches every function of your business. The real digital transformation is a continuous journey, steered towards bringing changes and improvements across an organization. It’s about:
- Adding speed and agility to day-to-day operations
- Bringing together people, processes, and systems together in a frictionless manner
- Being contextually accurate with customers while engaging with them
- Ensuring processes are nimble
- Enabling anytime, anywhere operations
The Secret Strategy to Digital Transformation
While it’s imperative to create a digital enterprise to survive now and sustain in the competitive marketplace, you should not rush headlong. Transformation does not happen overnight, and a digital transformation strategy does not come in a box. It requires a clear vision to bridge the gap between expectations and reality. And, once the vision is understood across all levels of your organization and embodied by each employee – half the battle is already won.
Trust Your Digital Transformation Strategy? Here’s a Quick Exercise for You…
Listed here are some of the common identified business goals that most of the business leaders aim to achieve. If your answers to all these questions are encouraging, then you certainly are on the right track in your digital transformation journey. However, if you answered “no” to any of these questions, it may be the time to redefine your digital transformation strategy.
- Are you exceeding your customers’ expectations and are ahead of your peers?
- Can you sustain your business in a connected world and are prepared for the unexpected?
- Can you seamlessly enable remote operations?
- Can you optimize costs and increase efficiency without compromising on innovation or customer experience?
- Can you easily mitigate risk and ensure compliance to future-proof your enterprise?
- Are you leveraging the full potential of your existing investment in digital?
The Final Word!
Organizational leaders who believe they’re done with digital transformation, it’s time to rethink and understand that digital transformation is a journey, not a destination.
The path towards digital transformation is ever-evolving and to stay current and future-proof, you must keep innovating and be at par with the changing expectations of your customers and competitive marketplace. You must stay mindful of the evolving needs and demands of your customers and business users, and create a strategy to achieve the desired business outcomes.
As one observer noted, even large disasters like Chernobyl didn’t completely stem from a lack of documentation. This crisis caused so much damage because people failed to follow the planned and documented processes in time. While it’s important to document processes, no flowcharts or instructions will help businesses run more efficiently or overcome unexpected unusual obstacles if nobody follows them.
Thus, proper business management refers to more than simply planning and documenting business processes. It also includes enforcing, measuring, and improving these processes. Take a look at some business process management statistics to learn why it’s important, how well organizations are doing, and most important, the tools that can make effective business process management relatively simple and seamless.
How Business Process Management Protects Businesses
To illustrate failures in process management in an even simpler and more common way, you can consider a process failure to causing a car accident by running a stop sign. Licensed drivers should know the process for safely crossing an intersection. They even know they can suffer such consequences as getting a ticket or damaging their vehicle by violating the rules. Still, lapses happen with manual processes, and these are every day and everywhere occurrences. Meanwhile, it doesn’t really matter who caused the collision; everybody involved stands to lose time and money and maybe even suffer injuries.
In the future, maybe technology will find a way to stop cars at the intersection until the road has cleared, as happens with self-driving cars. While a business cannot drive itself, companies do have an opportunity to test and enforce their business processes in a rather remarkable and automated way with the right systems in place.
Business process management statistics from a survey by BPTrends paint a grim picture of the state of even documenting the business process:
Overall, 96% of businesses reported having at least some business processes documented, which of course, is a good first step.
Only 11% of the respondents said they never documented processes, but only 23% reported frequently doing so.
Only 2% of the companies surveyed said they always documented business processes.
For some specific examples, only 1% mentioned always documenting standard processes, the types of things they most often do. Slightly higher but still one-digit percentages of businesses always documented process improvement, the way they used data, manager training, or even major processes. In any case, this survey uncovered that businesses aren’t even consistently documenting processes, much less tracking or enforcing them. You can imagine how many more drivers would run stop signs if they thought the red hexagon was just a suggestion and not a rule.
Why Businesses Invest in Business Process Management
Red Hat helped sponsor a survey of the reasons companies choose to invest in improving their own process management. They highlighted these key findings:
A desire to improve customer satisfaction: 42%
A desire to improve efficiency and agility: 65%
Companies with process change projects underway: 37%
Most of the survey respondents said their company focused on incremental process improvements and not a company-wide change in culture. In addition, they said the biggest obstacle they faced was simply selling the idea of documenting, tracking, and improving processes to senior managers. Some mentioned that they believed their leadership became confused because many departments had all presented their own projects, so this made it tough to get attention. This idea brings up the excellent point that business process management improvement could gain more traction with top-down leadership and as part of an enterprise-wide effort.
How M-Files Makes Business Process Management a Seamless Part of Efficient Workflow
The M-Files intelligent information management platform doesn’t just organize, maintain, and track your documents. It also automates the process of keeping your workflow on track and helps improve quality control through each step of the process. You won’t have to struggle with documents getting lost in the SPAM folder of the next responsible person’s email. Instead, that individual will get an alert that they need to attend to that document and one simple interface to use to perform their task. Such features as automatic approval notifications are already included in the system.
After that employee has completed their work, the process continues by moving on to the next person in the chain. Meanwhile, your valuable information and businesses processes will get protected by certified security, version control, recovery features, and an automated system. You can also integrate M-Files with such other enterprise-scale software as your CRM to make the transition seamless. M-Files also makes it easy to turn your workplace into a paperless office and to give employees remote access, so they can work where they need to.
Are you ready to imagine a better way of working as well as controlling business processes? Get started by scheduling a free demo or a free trial. Contact us today to tell us about your business processes, and we’ll show you how we help.