- make a correct diagnosis
- identify needs
- help answer those needs
- improve managerial performance
- achieve employee satisfaction and motivation.
The Encounter between the Client and the Consultant
Situations the Consultant encounters that affect budget considerations.
- may have no idea of what budget to allocate
- asks for a proposal based on his own perception of needs
- is aware of only one or more symptoms or may not want to acknowledge the problem
- is aware of the problem but needs outside assistance to solve it
- may not be aware of the root of the problem
- may or may not fully realize the benefits a "full treatment" will have on his operation.
The Consultant's roleIt is up to the Consultant to:
- "feel the pulse" and make a preliminary diagnosis at his first encounter with the Client
- act with integrity and in the interest of the Client
A Consultant must acknowledge to himself, and then to the Client, whether he is equipped with the right tools and expertise to solve the problem, accomplish the necessary changes and improvements, or whether more specialized help is needed.
If, due to a limited budget or a superficial diagnosis, the Client asks the Consultant to provide a limited service (e.g. a lecture or presentation on Customer Service), which may not actually solve the company's problem/s, the Consultant should attempt to discover the real need of the company in relation to the subject under discussion, i.e. is this a request only for a "refresher" session or is there a problem with Customer Service? If the latter is the case, he must offer an honest opinion to the Client, even at the risk of losing the business. Example: with a few probing questions the Consultant may discover the reasons behind the bad Customer Service, which is but a symptom and that the problem may lie either in shortcomings in supervision, management or human resources practices, a deficient operational aspect, or inadequate training.
At this point the Consultant should be candid with the Client and offer an opinion regarding the effectiveness of a generic Customer Service session, explaining the necessity of correcting the root of the problem before the actual delivery of training sessions to front-line employees.
Here, the Consultant acts as a true Consultant, way beyond the "Facilitator" the Client wanted to hire. A good Consultant will first clarify goals, discover the root/s of the problem/s, help correct those problems, then guide management and employees towards the desired results.
A good Consultant will custom-design a Customer Service workshop to fit this company's needs, taking into consideration all the attributes of the human resources at hand. Employees should never be treated as mere "recipients" of a program - their background, culture, personalities, skills, abilities, knowledge, know-how, past and present experience, aspirations, morale and opinions should be taken into account when planning any type of program. This applies to all the human resources of a company, including its supervisory level. A good Consultant knows this and he therefore serves his Client best by proposing to follow this preliminary discussion and diagnosis with an in-depth needs assessment that will involve an impartial study (accompanied by interviews) of the company: its present situation, its management/ managerial style, employees, operation, past and present achievements, and shortcomings, as compared to the desired goals and objectives.
When a Client agrees to invest in a needs assessment he is giving Management's commitment to improving the situation in a structured manner. The company will be ready to advance and improve progressively, with the involvement of all its players. It will stop stifling fires as they erupt and managing crisis after crisis, but advance as a unified force in a progressive manner.
Needs AssessmentThe Consultant will want to study:
- The company's organizational structure
- its human resources
- the company's mission, goals, and objectives
- its competition (analysis and comparison)
- feedback from its customers
- feedback from management
- feedback from employees at all levels
- performance records
- staffing and employee turnover
- management and employee reward programs
- existing training and development programs/activities (structured and unstructured)
- the company's marketing strategy
- market share and positioning
- company revenue
- sales figures
- company repute.
The purpose of any training program, be it a Seminar-Workshop or a structured program to be carried "in-house" is to improve any or all of the above-mentioned aspects (the ideal being "all of the above"). A company is composed of many facets which represent interdependent areas of operation; each affects the whole.
Managers' Reluctance to pay for Needs Assessments leads to Dilemmas
Managers are usually reluctant to spend on a needs assessment, believing they can obtain better value by spending the money on specific remedial sessions or activities. When confronted with such a situation the Consultant is faced with two alternatives:
(a) Giving management what they want at the price they are ready to pay, even if such an activity will not lead to long-term results or represent true value to the Client, or
(b) At the risk of losing the business, stand firm on the necessity of conducting a needs assessment, whatever its scope, as a first step towards healing the company.
Some Consultants believe that if they give the client what he wants and later speak about further needs the company has, the Client will be "won over" by then for further Consulting.
Other Consultants prefer to maintain their image, repute, and business integrity by speaking openly with the Client about the real needs of the company. Such Consultants risk losing some Clients but "win big" in the long run; the Client doesn't feel he has been duped or drawn into unending short-term Consulting contracts.
If it is short-term sporadic activities that the Client insists on, even though he has been made aware of the deeper needs that must first be tackled, then the Consultant must make sure that he will not be held accountable for unreasonable expectations by the Client. Short-term, unstructured activities are "stop gap" measures and the Client must be made to realize that; otherwise, the Consultant's reputation is at stake.
A good Consultant leads the Client to realize that a Consultant plays the role of Company Physician. A good physician does not prescribe antibiotics or cough drops relying on the patient's diagnosis, without examining the patient, or depending on the patient's budget. A Consultant who does not act as Company Physician (examining, diagnosing, prescribing and tailoring a remedy to fit the patient) should describe himself as "Facilitator"; consulting involves deeper commitment from all sides.Managers call upon Consultants to help them.
- quell a fire
- enhance operational performance
- plan and reorganize for the future.
- in-depth knowledge of the field in which the company operates
- proven experience
- good communication skills
- conceptual skills (analysis and synthesis)
- human relations skills
- technical skills (program design and facilitation)
- management and supervisory skills
- leadership skills
- innate abilities to guide and coach
- diagnostic abilities
- mediation abilities
- sense of responsibility and business integrity.
The Consultant as Problem-Solver, Coach, Guide, Mentor
The Manager expects the Consultant to guide and assist him. A Consultant must make sure he can live up to the measure and the trust placed in him. He must continuously self develop both personally and professionally; he must study the world around him, analyze changes, synthesize, come up with new creations and ideas, test them, refine them, and then offer them to the market. He must know his peers and learn from them. He must be goal-oriented and put the Client's interest and well-being before his own. He must have vision - vision for the industry, the subject at hand, and vision for the Clients. Yet he knows how not to sell himself short. His dedication and effort have their value, and Clients will realize that.
Traits, Characteristics and Validation to look for when choosing a ConsultantManagers cannot expect a Consultant to provide consulting services, offer guidance and advice free of charge. Yet, how can they make sure this is the right Consultant for their company before making a commitment? If you are a Manager interviewing a Consultant, ask probing questions and listen to what is being said and what is not said:
- Does the Consultant display the knowledge and know-how you want of him?
- Does he show sensitivity to the company's needs and to what you want?
- Does he give examples for problem solving?
- Does he speak proudly of specific achievements?
- Does he guard his other Clients' confidentiality?
- Does he speak of others with respect?
- Does he give direct clear answers to specific questions?
- Does he ask you probing questions?
- Does he ask you for what you wish to achieve for his company?
- Does he ask about your company's performance today?
- Does he pretend to solve all problems by himself or does he speak of team effort?
- Does he only propose facilitating a session or giving a lecture?
- Does he ask about your human resources?
- Does he demonstrate genuine interest in the well-being of your company?
- Does he propose to conduct a needs assessment?
- Does he ask about your company's past performance?
- Does he come through as someone who can custom-design the proper remedy?
- Does he impress you as being a knowledgeable, caring, creative person?
- Did he offer printed literature and testimonials regarding his services?
- Does he speak only of himself and how many clients he has?
- Does he speak mostly of money and the cost to you?
- Does he propose only generic or "off-the-shelf" programs?
Consultants are costly, but if you choose the right Consultant, it is the best investment you can make. Actually, if you have a problem, instead of spending more on advertising, you should take the time to select the right Consultant and work with him to plan a company strategy that will raise it to the level you desire and that your Customers expect.
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Copyright © 1997 - Claire Belilos
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Claire Belilos, owner of Chic Hospitality Consulting Services, and Easytraining. specializes in Hospitality, human resources strategies, organizational training and development, Customer Service and problem-solving. She offers "on site", online and distance consulting and coaching. She creates job, training and evaluation tools, and custom-tailored solutions to people management problems. She also moderates a unique Customer Service Viewpoints forum. List yourself at http://www.easytraining.com/csforumlisting.htm to be advised of its new location.
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