We have in the preceding 8 articles discussed the importance of continued enhancement of knowledge, skill, and experience. All growth-oriented professionals would need to focus on ensuring excellent quality of work delivered consistently in time. Normally, after a few years the improvement plateaus and stops. One wonders why better work/better clients do not come again for repeat work. Peter Druker the noted economist observed that quality is not what you put into your work but what the customer got out of it. One common reason could be the mediocre quality of the work dished out. If one gives quality value-added service, then all those in need would gravitate to him/her. This can become an upward spiral with more exposure (learning opportunity), focus on quality giving more wisdom, and consequently more work. Steve Jobs observed that one must be a yardstick for quality. This is true when excellence is expected from all professionals.
Advantages of Excellent Quality
Good quality work can have several distinct and direct positive impact on the growth of a professional. The internal advantages of the firm could be:
- saving in resources- no rework, duplication,
- increase in productivity (less time for the same job),
- one's knowledge and skill improvement and
- building pride in one's work, organization, and profession.
More important today as in past the external advantages should be centered around the client. A few of the conduct of work beyond clients expectation could be:
- a client coming back regularly;
- client referring to us- work of mouth is an excellent advertisement;
- retaining customers easier than attracting new;
- a bigger share of the fee wallet of client;
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All these would invariably lead to higher fees as brand, credibility, and trust built due to consistently high quality among other factors.
Points at which Quality is on Display - Evaluated by Client
1. Phone / Mobile Call: Professional response with full accountability and clarity to the front desk, staff working on an assignment, team leader, or partner. Today it could include email, text, website, video conferencing, and conference calls. In the earlier article on oral and other communication, we have understood how to communicate as also how to persuade. Suffice to say, all responses to indicate respect, care, and concern for the client.
2. Letters/ Documents Share: Correspondences to be concise, clear, and respectful. Duly vetted before sharing if important. No mere forwarding is done without high lighting what may be relevant. Documenting the oral information and if answers provided the conversation in the form of Q&A.
3. Website: In today's world this has become an important part of the 1st point of contact and therefore to be tastefully designed and easy to navigate. All the information to be current and updated. Ideally, some sharing that could enable the client to get a feel of the entity would help.
4. Social Media: These have today become very important and many professionals have their own/ firm blogs. Value-added analytical articles rather than 1st to market would differentiate the diligent professional.
5. Meetings: The 1st meeting with the professional could make or break and therefore one has to ensure the following to make a good impact. Knowledge of the industry/ client and the challenges needs to be researched in advance. The needs of the client may be many, whereas the professional can only provide a part. Here, it would be ideal not to take up other jobs and stick to one's competencies. If one knows reliable professionals then ONLY referral should be done. One should remember that if client is not happy with the referred person, our name also gets sullied.
6. Opinions/ replies/ appeals/ reports: The output provided to the client is available with them for eternity and therefore should be issued after due standardized processes including adherence to standards to ensure high quality. Some actions to ensure good quality could be as under:
a. Is the understanding of the client's business and its challenges done sufficiently?
b. Are all relevant facts, evidence, agreements been examined for each concern/ issue of the client? [Completeness important incorrect/vague understanding would result in the sub-standard report]
In case of information delays- documentation of delay and reason why it is important may be on the record.
c. Seamless process of capture and sharing of facts and concerns where multiple people involved in assignment ensured? [ No report based on assumption/ presumption]
d. Has each and every concern identified ( support to identify if client not clear) and issues listed and prioritized?
e. Has sufficient research with the latest changes, judicial decisions, circulars indicating the revenue view been examined for each issue?
In the case of repetitive work, whether any change in the period between the last job and this one confirmed.
f. Are there checklists prepared for each type of work to ensure nothing important missed? Are there being used in real-time by the staff?
g. In case the work is done by junior professionals- is there a monitoring system to ensure due diligence and guidance where necessary?
h. Has the work been reviewed internally and in case of complex issues mandatorily by a senior to ensure it could survive judicial scrutiny at a later date? If dispute possible suggest safeguards to mitigate the risk.
i. Is the opinion, reply, report concise, and not running into scores of pages? If so, is there a summary at the start of some of the lengthy parts in the annexure can be considered.
j. In case of any solution, a suggestion is a basis of arriving at the conclusion clear? In the case of alternative providing the reasoning and risk of each clear.
k. Is the draft shared with the client for inputs- especially to confirm the facts as that may not be amenable to change later?
l. Is it issued within the promised time? If delayed has the confirmation for an additional time been taken? Is the turnaround time reasonable?
m. It needs to be ensured that cut paste work is properly validated.
n. The English language, grammar/ vocabulary should be proper. The conciseness ( avoid repetition) and sequencing of the paras should also be considered.
o. Many more depending on the type of assignment.
7. Post Assignment Actions: Some professionals do nothing after the billing is done other than follow up for payment delays. There are some quality aspects important as under:
i. Internal independent review on a sample basis to ensure quality not compromised?
ii. Follow up with the client on whether the purpose for which work done was achieved?
iii. Suggested actions whether taken forward and maybe a supplementary note to highlight the impact of not following.
iv. Open and constructive feedback to get areas to improve which could be from satisfactory to good, from good to excellent? This is normally avoided or not obtained but is imperative.
v. The judicial developments in favor or against to be shared with reference to the assignment. This would indicate a high level of proactivity and client empathy.
vi. Internally is the quality work done being identified and staff rewarded by way of key performance indicators being in place for annual increments etc.?
This article has sought to share some obvious aspects of quality, its advantages, and more importantly how to evaluate quality which for some time was a challenge for our firm. We have drawn on our processes and procedures. Hope it is of value.
The author can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the next article in the series - Chapter 10: Making a Difference
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