Struggling to innovate? Try collaborating. The old adage ‘two heads are better than one’ proves to be true, more often than not. Why then, do professional services firms find it hard to collaborate?
At Stephens Scown, collaboration – both internally across the firm and externally with suppliers and clients – has been used to drive innovation.
Driving up client service
Most recently the firm has worked collaboratively with a supplier and several clients to give clients access to real-time financial data.
The idea for this goes back a few years. I was at a legal conference and an in-house counsel was presenting. In the Q&A he was asked for the one thing his legal advisors could do to make his life easier. His answer was to provide financial information in a way that he could manipulate and easily present to his Board.
Like many other law firms, we were guilty of sending clients financial information in a very static way. I suddenly realised this could create a lot of work for them, particularly if they had to extract the data they needed and slice and dice it in a different way.
We have been using Katchr to provide us with management information for several years and found them to be very creative, providing us with some great bespoke solutions to meet our needs. Our first step was to approach them to see if we could work together to develop a product to give clients access to real-time financial information.
Katchr immediately came on-board and we set up a pilot, led by one of our partners who has an interest in technical innovations. The data is already in our system and our aim was to convey it in a user friendly format for clients, giving them the ability to manipulate the data in any way they wished.
Several discussions later, a product was developed which was ready for testing with clients. The pilot started with two clients and is currently being extended to include 10 more. With their feedback helping to refine the product, the aim is for Stephens Scown to roll it out with suitable clients early in the New Year.
Cracking the issue of cross-referrals
Collaboration has also been a focus internally for Stephens Scown. Again, the starting point was identifying an area for improvement.
Several years ago, the Board and I recognised that to unlock growth we needed to get better at cross-referring work between teams. Lawyers are not normally natural sales people and there was a great deal of resistance to the idea of cross-referring.
Our challenge was to move Stephens Scown from a firm where cross-referring rarely took place to one where it was embedded in our culture; where clients were seen as clients of the whole firm, not just an individual or one particular team.
Our marketing team was given the freedom to flex their creative muscles and came up with a fun ABBA-inspired concept for an internal campaign – ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’. It aimed to help colleagues understand more about other teams (‘knowing me’) and think about how they could better support clients (‘knowing you’). The campaign featured training, fun competitions, posters, guides and crucially collaboration was key, with ‘Super Troupers’ acting as cross-referring ambassadors in each team.
The results speak for themselves, with the campaign resulting in an increase in the number of cross-referrals of 41% and growth in the fees from cross-referrals of 44%.
Innovation depends on being open to collaborate. We don’t have all of the answers and quite simply we couldn’t have tackled these two issues – and many more – without taking a collaborative approach.