Adopting a zippered approach to client relationships

Greg Steele, CEO Arcadis Australia Pacific, reflects on how a strategic shift in thinking 7 years ago has allowed us to achieve more meaningful client relationships and better business outcomes.

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"In a field like engineering (though it’s true in any sector) it can be very easy for a company-or senior executives or managers or line staff-to focus just on the technical and operational issues they face."

I got a call while I was on holiday from a couple of CEOs of major client companies to discuss some performance issues and I couldn’t have been happier.

Those individual work issues aside, it confirmed to me just how far we’ve come in building extremely close working relationships with our key clients. Not only are they comfortable enough to reach out personally, but just as committed as us to heading issues off at the pass-and that goes to the heart of the health of any company.

There’s a whole industry devoted to managing client relationships, but just how this absolutely basic business principle works in practice can get lost. In our case, I am not exaggerating when I say how central we’ve made our clients to the way Arcadis approaches everything it does.

And in a field like engineering -though it’s true in any sector- it can be very easy for a company-or senior executives or managers or line staff-to focus just on the technical and operational issues they face. It takes a strategic shift in thinking and a reshaping of your operational culture to really put clients first.

I know this can sound like a cliché until you try to embed it into everyday business. At Arcadis, I like to think of how we interact with our clients as a zipper, one that meshes seamlessly across both companies through strong personal relationships at every level. 

We do it in all sorts of ways. One of the most important is the effort we put in to understanding our client’s business through both our client expectation briefs process which help us to identify critical and desired outcomes and by appointing Account Leaders across the business for our 17 key clients. 

While we value all clients that we work and collaborate with on projects, we also prioritize our key clients in order to make smarter use of our resources. When we started doing this roughly 7 years ago, we made a conscious decision to focus on a smaller and more strategic group of clients, including those  who help us align with our strategic goals across a range of sectors.

This re-focus has included us conducting independent yearly reviews to 'check in' with how we’re doing with our key clients. This undertaking allows us to get a picture of not only how much effort we put into the process but how important it is to keep the pedal to the metal right across the company. And there you have it. That’s the difference between 'one job done well' against a strategic and cultural shift made within a business that is built to last. 

Greg Steele

Group Executive for Asia Pacific Ask me a question
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