At Stellar, we are excited about formally branding a long running service we’ve provided to clients. Stellar Evolve is our consulting division, designed to help clients transform their customer experiences through comprehensive customer strategies and contact centre optimisation. Having reflected on all the advice we have provided over the years, we thought it would be instructive to ask one of our consulting directors to provide some recommendations around how to best use consultants.
Throughout my years of consulting, I have regularly spoken with clients about their engagements with consultants. Their most positive experiences have occurred when working with experts whom they trust and who provide the right approach to tackling strategic issues or operational challenges.
Working with consultants means that you quickly gain expertise in fields that you may not have within your team or access extra resources and skills when and as you need them. We recommend that you follow these steps to ensure that you get what you need and maximise the benefits of your consulting engagements.
Define your problem
Be very clear on what you want to achieve out of the consulting work. This will help you identify the attributes of the right consultant and will set clear boundaries for the work you will scope with your consulting partner.
Workshop your needs upfront
An initial workshop with your consultant will help them understand your needs in order to create the right plan of attack. The outcomes of this workshop should assist in defining the scope, length, resource requirements and price of the consulting engagement, so taking the time to agree on what to include will be absolutely critical. This is not to say that changes can’t be made along the way; indeed the analysis undertaken may bring up some issues you had not even identified upfront, but these can be included at a later stage if necessary.
Assign a sponsor
Assign an internal sponsor to work with your chosen consulting team to help remove roadblocks and gain access to the right people and the right information. The sponsor needs to be senior enough and on board with the reason for engaging a consultant to make things happen.
Schedule regular communication checkpoints and status updates
Make sure there is regular contact between your team and the consultant throughout the engagement; a good consultant will set this expectation from the start. You don’t want to have the consultant complete detailed analysis and provide recommendations, only to find out that they have missed the mark. If you’ve undertaken the steps above this risk is reduced, but it’s well worth the investment of time to make sure that you’re getting what you need out of the engagement.
Focus on actions, not words
At the end of the program, and indeed throughout the whole process, you need to be sure that the consultant has focused on delivering outcomes that you and your team can put into action. Be practical. Receiving a formal 100-page document without a clear solution and plan is hardly worth your time or money.
Finally, select someone you can work with and trust. This is the most important element of the process, so take your time to understand the personalities, along with the skills and the expertise, of the consultants you are considering - it will be worth it in the end!