Many companies hire external consultants or experts to better understand their customers, to align strategies in a customer-centric way, or to develop innovations. If you’re doing the same, you’re probably asking yourself: Which consultant should we consider? How should we choose? What results can we expect? Which methods are the right ones? To help you make a decision and learn for ourselves, we have applied our proven and tested Customer-Focused Innovation (CFI) process to ourselves.
Work with external experts
When we, the founders and partners of Vendbridge, think back to our time when, on the corporate side, we awarded budgets worth millions to external consultants, advertising agencies or market researchers, we ask ourselves in retrospect whether we really achieved the optimum.
Of course, we made sure that the assignments were clear. That the promised results were achieved. That know-how and expertise were conveyed. That the chemistry with the teams on the consultant or agency side was right.
But in retrospect, questions remain. Did we choose the right consultants? Did we get value for our money? Were we able to implement the recommendations? And, of course, the question of all questions: Did the consultants support us in such a way that we achieved our goal?
How do clients measure success?
As an expert consultancy for customer-focused innovation and thought leaders for customer insights, we are on the other side today. And the question of how do we deliver value to our clients is existential.
What could be more obvious than to apply the Customer-Focused Innovation (CFI) process we have developed and proven to ourselves. After all, it has shown top companies from a wide range of industries, from consumer goods to financial services to medtech, ways to align growth plans with the customer and succeed in the marketplace.
According to CFI’s underlying jobs-to-be-done logic, we ask not what solutions our clients want, but: What do our clients want to achieve when they engage external consultants? Because according to the understanding of jobs-to-be-done, clients don’t want a drill, they want a hole in the wall.
So they don’t want a strategy consultant, user experience expert or design thinker, but they want to successfully implement their innovation and growth projects on the market. After many discussions and interviews with existing and potential clients, a hierarchy of needs crystallizes (see Exhibit 1), which holistically maps a company’s requirements regarding consultant selection.
The exciting part is that behind the need hierarchy lies a list of 28 expectation metrics that were mentioned in these interviews. So this is how our clients measure success. Each metric is precisely formulated, with an expectation, a unit of measurement, and contextual information. Just as we always do in our now 100+ projects using the CFI process (see Exhibit 2).
Get all the metrics!
What matters most of all?
The 28 expectation metrics are a good start and give a concrete insight into the expectations of companies working with external consultants. But which of these metrics is more important than others? What should be the focus when selecting a consultant or evaluating their performance?
Especially when there are decisions to be made that entail significant investments, such as selecting a consultant who will have an impact on important projects, it would be useful to know what to focus on in particular.
The metrics are formulated in a solution-free manner as an expectation and can therefore be evaluated by companies working with consultants. This is consistent with the basic idea of jobs-to-be-done logic.
So we asked our clients. More than 50 team members responded. The answers are clear. Four themes stand out when evaluating consulting services (see Exhibit 3). External consultants must deliver the following:
Results that are concrete: Companies don’t want flowery customer insights with pretty pictures that leave questions about what to do with them
A high probability of success in the marketplace that is comprehensible: that is, thrusts and measures with demonstrably more customer value
Facts and data: Anecdotal qualitative opinions are no good as a basis for decision-making and are often distorted and interpreted from a non-customer perspective
The business perspective: It’s not the tools that count, but what companies get for their business
You may have a different weighting. Nevertheless, what is interesting is how the market sees it. In other words, which criterion is considered important by a majority?
On a personal note: How do we perform?
In order to be successful on the market and, for example, to make a growth project a success, unsolved customer problems must be addressed better than before. If this is not the case, the end customer does not understand why he or she should change his or her behavior and switch to another solution.
As Vendbridge, we want to measure ourselves against our own ambitions. Where are we good? In what direction should we continue to develop? That’s why we systematically ask our clients after each project how important certain expectations are to them and to what extent they have been met in the project collaboration; in other words, they evaluate us against the 28 expectation metrics (see Exhibit 4).
The unsparing external view gives us positive confirmation, but sometimes it also hurts. But it is the only way we can bring our customers the added value we promise them.
We are happy to disclose the results, as an incentive for ourselves and for your benefit, in case you are in the process of hiring a strategy consultant or user experience expert to develop customer-focused strategies.
If you are unsure what your requirements are for external consultants or what exactly you want to achieve, we will be happy to take the time to discuss these issues with you without obligation – even if we do not become your consultant of choice.
And if you are already working with us, we look forward to receiving feedback. Because we like to measure ourselves by the success of your growth plans.