Complacency Kills

January 16th 2014

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Dictionary.com defines complacent as:

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“pleased, especially with oneself or one's merits, advantages, situation, etc.,  often without awareness of some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied”

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What the dictionary doesn’t say is that being complacent eventually kills both relationships and revenue. If you’re hearing the statements below in your firm, you’re probably at risk of losing clients. The only way to save ourselves is to ask questions that counter individual and organizational complacency.

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Complacency: “We’ve had this client for years. They love us.” Well, maybe they do and maybe they’re just feeling so-so about you. To think you can serve them year after year the same way you always have is pure folly. Rest assured, your competitors are looking to take your place with that client. They want what you have, and they will work hard to get it. 

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Counter: Have I asked this client how we’re doing, face to face? Better yet, have I sent someone else in to ask the client how we’re doing -- just in case there’s something making Adoring Client uncomfortable or less than pleased with us? Have I spent the right amount of non-billable time partnering with this client to improve something about their business or their life? Have I brought them a new idea? 

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Complacency: “We’ve always done it this way.”  What this really says is, “Hey, it’s not broke. Let’s not fix it. Let’s concentrate on our real (billable) work.”  The trouble is, your clients expect you to keep doing things better and working in their interests more effectively, on a fairly consistent upward spiral. They may not express it, but they surely do expect it. And if they don’t get the most forward-thinking innovation from you, they might just get it from your competitors. 

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Counter: More questions. Which of our systems or processes are clunky, ineffective, or unnecessary? When is the last time we asked our clients what they’d like to get from us? What’s working well right now that we could do even better? 

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You’ll notice that the counters to complacency are similar. They both require asking hard questions. We have to look in our organizational mirror and see who’s looking back. The price of not doing so is high: disaffected, disengaged clients that are ripe for the picking by your competition.

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