The chairman of the APC panel tends to ask the questions on this tricky compentency. Here’s how to win him/her over…
This week we’re looking at the mandatory competency associated with client care (M003). The competency covers the principals and practice of client care and you are required to have a detailed knowledge of this competency to level 2.
As with ethics and rules / codes of conduct, this competency is often covered by the chairman of the APC assessment panel. It affects and is relevant to all clients and customers that you deal with and all projects that you works on.
Competency at Level 1 includes ‘demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the principals and practice of client care including:
• The concept of identifying all clients/colleagues/third parties who are your clients and the behaviours that are appropriate to establish good client relationships.
• The systems and procedures that are appropriate for managing the process of client care, including complaints.
• The requirement to collect data, analyse and define the needs of clients.’
Question What do you understand about client care?
Answer Firstly you must be familiar with the key facets of client care. The majority of companies these days have some sort of policy in connection with client care – read it and familiarise yourself with the key issues.
In terms of identifying who the clients are and their behavioural patterns consideration should be given to the following:
• Specific software packages – contacts databases or relationship management databases.
• Developing capture plans to assist in the identification and capturing of a specific clients needs.
• Understanding clients’ timescales so that responses can be tailored to suit.
• Understanding the need for a polite and professional approach to all business
• Understanding the need for clear concise communication to keep clients informed of developments.
You may then want to identify the systems and processes you are familiar with for managing client care including:
• Customer complaint procedures
• Quality Assurance procedures
• Other policies you may have such as sustainability, equal opportunities, environmental policies etc – depending upon the clients requirements.
• Customer satisfaction questionnaires
• Client feedback meetings
• Lessons learned workshops
You can then round off the answer with an understanding of why we collect data. In essence it allows you to understand how you are performing, what you are doing well on and what you are doing poorly on, what you should do more of and what you should do less of. Often you can use this information to understand how you are performing against your competitors, and also get a clearer understanding of what your customers needs really are. In addition to this by having regular customer care meetings problems can be identified early on and rectified with minimal damage.
Competency at level 2 involves ‘Provide evidence of practical application of the principals and practice of client care in your area of practice’.
As stated in previous articles this means demonstrating a working knowledge.
Question Give me an example of a client care exercise that you have been involved in?
Answer Here you will need to outline a practical example of where you have instigated or carried out specific client care activities.
You may want to discuss a specific project that you were involved in where client care activities were carried out – often this takes the form of questionnaires or feedback meetings – describe the process that was adopted – formal questionnaires or informal questions. Did you undertake client interviews? If so were these face to face or telephone interviews?
You should then describe the process of understanding, analysing and acting upon the information gained. Describe the feedback you obtained and how you changed the service offering the show the client that you had acted upon the feedback they had given you.
You may also want to cover how all this links into your quality assurance procedures and what internal reporting you did to communicate your feedback.
Question How do you deal with a customer complaint?
Answer If your company has a customer complaints procedure you should familiarise yourself with it. Often these procedures have specific timescales to respond within, and specific actions against individuals. Clearly these need to be adhered to in order to show that the complaint has been handled effectively and in accordance with company policy.
Talk through the logical process of:
• Allocating the complaint to the appropriate person identified in the procedure to deal with it
• Respond in the identified timescale to the client outlining the course of action from this point forward
• Investigate the complaint using the defined procedure
• Identify the outcomes and course of action to rectify or close out the complaint
• Communicate the outcomes and course of action to the client.
• Formally record using an appropriate process
• Communicate lesson learnt internally
• Review at a predetermined date in the future
Question I note from your summary of experience that you have assisted one of your directors undertake a review of your companies customer complaint procedures. Can you outline the process you adopted and what your recommendations were?
Answer If you are asked this sort of question you should clearly out line the process you were involved in. Try and be as clear and honest about your role as possible – how did you fit into the team, what was your input and specific function, how did you interact with your fellow director etc.
Identify your outputs, and what the recommendations were. Identify why you made certain key recommendations, and whether these have been taken on board.
Question How did you act upon feedback received from a client?
Answer The feedback should be formally recorded in some way. If obtained through a customer satisfaction questionnaire or the like then this will form the formal record. If the feedback is verbal then a formal record should be made.
If the feedback is negative then it needs to be verified and the necessary course of action taken depending upon the actual feedback. If a formal approach is required then obviously the company procedure should be followed.
It is also advisable to ensure that feedback is collated in a formal way and fed back into the company through some form of lessons learned process.
By Alasdair Thompson, divisional director, Franklin + Andrews responsible for Western Business Unit
APC Trainer's advice is intended as guidance only and should not replace your own study