This week’s post was written by Doug Post.
Client Advocates represent the customer to the rest of Interstates. They create culture and systems that motivate and enable our people to Understand our clients’ Needs so that they can Deliver Results. All leaders can advocate for our clients – you don’t have to be in operations or doing project delivery. Leaders must keep our culture centered on serving others. They can ensure training and accountability on client service expectations and can also develop systems and processes to better serve our clients. For example, designating client accounts as All-Stars, Veterans, Rookies, or Prospects in 2015 clarified who is responsible for our most important clients, aligned business development and operations around common clients, and provided a framework for setting goals and utilizing resources to better serve these clients.
Leaders who advocate for the client regularly walk beside and help project teams understand a client’s business goals for the projects they’ve entrusted to us. After all, whether a new grain export facility is justified on the basis of receiving grain by the next harvest or on the premise of increasing long-term market share can have a drastic impact on how we manage the construction schedule.
During the difficulties and surprises of project work, Client Advocates keep Interstates’ people focused on the client’s needs and point-of-view. Project work is stressful, and personalities can clash. Client-focused leaders remind project teams of the client’s importance and focus them on the positive aspects of the client. They promote the importance of client relationships lasting beyond any single project.
Client Advocates understand how Interstates’ design-build value proposition – Rapid project delivery, Innovative solutions, Single-source responsibility, and Early dependable pricing (RISE) – can benefit our clients. In the late 90s, an Interstates proposal team exemplified this and secured a large sugar facility project in Moses Lake, Washington, that enabled us to help the client, stretch our people, and grow Interstates to a new level.
This client had been unsuccessful in getting its project funded. Our proposal leaders quickly understood that the complex design and design-bid format were driving up the client’s costs and extending its schedule. After explaining the RISE benefits of design-build to the client and sharing our (reduced) budget that we agreed to stand behind, the client was able to get the project approved and moved forward, trusting our early, dependable pricing and our ability to speed up the pace of the project.
The AGP account team is another great example of representing the client. As we’ve grown with this important All-Star client over the last 20+ years, a number of characteristics illustrate what client advocacy is all about:
- We have built a strong working relationship with AGP. We’re fully zippered – multiple people at Interstates have relationships with people at multiple levels at AGP.
- We’re at the planning table, understanding AGP’s projects and business needs. Randy Van Voorst, our account leader, is closely involved with multiple AGP leaders in budgeting their projects long before board approval.
- We’ve dedicated an XBU team to serve AGP, and all departments know that serving AGP is a priority.
- We know the facilities’ electrical systems inside and out – often better than AGP does. This enables us to be its trusted advisors.
This intentional development of an account team to passionately and intentionally serve a client is what advocating for the client is all about. A service culture doesn’t happen by accident. Our company will always be a reflection of its leaders. Their attitudes, their values, and their commitment to service excellence will drive the actions of others in the organization. Always has, always will.
Know how you are “Making a Difference for Our Clients” and continue leading the Interstates Way – Advocate for the Client!