Client Charters, Client Agreements, Client SLA’s are often put in place between firms and important clients. These are the standards, above and beyond any regulatory obligations, that the firm agrees to meet when servicing the client. Firms are also using them as a statement of how all clients can expect to be serviced.
It is becoming more common for clients to dictate what these should be, and have their panel firms agree to abide by these standards, or face the consequences. However, having standards which you commit to servicing your clients by shouldn’t be exclusively dictated by your clients.
A client specific charter should state the nature of the relationship, what value you will provide their business, and what it is you are there to help them achieve, e.g. “grow your business to the largest in your sector”. It should also include information which is relevant to your relationship, for example:
- Key contact points – e.g. client partners who will treat the client as a priority
- Agreed processes – e.g. getting approval for fee estimates or new instructions
- Value added services – details of those you have agreed and how the client can use them
- Escalation policy – e.g. processes for complaints or disagreements
- Billing or invoicing arrangements
- Any other agreed or non-standard arrangements with the client e.g. regular relationship meetings or secondments
SLA’s are often a distracting factor in client charters. They should be agreed at the outset of every piece of work because different work has different requirements. Client charters are a great way to capture agreed goals and the ways in which you wish to run a relationship. Where they often stumble is when they try and be too specific or encompass every possible issue. They should be living documents which are reviewed regularly against the agreed outcomes, which means they will change from time to time. The other common pitfall is where the board, or the relationship partners negotiate the charter, but fail to inform the team who will be doing the work.
So, if you are going to develop a client specific charter:
- State the nature of the relationship and the client goals upfront
- Keep it relevant to the client
- Focus on the ‘non standard’ areas
- Focus on the client (internal firm processes are not important, outcomes are)
- Keep it as simple as possible
- Train your team!
We think firms should have client charters for their important clients, but SLA’s should be agreed for each individual matter.
What’s your view? Do you have client charters that are working, and what do they include?