Your clients are calling to see what you can do about their fees. If they can't be lowered, can they at least stay the same? How do you accommodate their request while maintaining your profitability?
Start by taking a critical look inside your practice, especially whether or not your processes add value to your client. How? Follow the concepts of Lean and Six Sigma. Born in the manufacturing sector, Lean Six Sigma has helped countless businesses meet customer demands with their products and services without wasting time, money or resources.
Challenge all levels of your organization to examine and understand the "voice of the client," for both internal and external clients. Whether you are looking at your clients in the traditional sense of the word or people within your own firm who need something from a co-worker in order to complete their assigned tasks, make sure you truly know what the client wants and when and how they want it. Ask yourself: What do I do to deliver superior value for my clients? What is wasteful - that neither delivers value to my clients or strengthens my bottom line? These areas are ripe for process improvement.
Firms with efficient and effective processes will rise above the rest as we work our way through tough times. More effective processes will lead to lower work in process. And that gives you an option you don't normally have - you can slightly reduce billings without hurting profitability. What client wouldn't love to hear their fees aren't going up? Or even better, they have gone down a little?
And consider the impact it could have on your staffing. If you lose an employee through normal attrition, you may be able to get by without hiring someone new to fill the position - you'll be achieving more throughput, or process speed, with your existing resources.
Happy clients come back which makes client satisfaction and retention a priority. By using Lean tools and thoroughly understanding the "voice of the client" for external and internal clients alike, firms are well on their way to achieving efficient and effective processes and better satisfying their clients. Not only can you can serve client needs and keep fees reasonable, but you'll have time to think and reflect about how you can bring more value to the table.