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The “Cheers” theory of client interaction and niche practice satisfaction

You know the feeling … walking into a favorite café or gym. Your particular coffee or treadmill waits reserved for you. They knew you were coming because you always do. All that’s missing is a voice from the end of the bar – “Norm!”

Though that reference probably ages me, the idea of being a ‘”regular” is certainly not limited by time, place or even culture. The warm feelings found in being a fixture in a community are universally understood and desired.

Still, becoming a regular doesn’t just happen. It takes time, consistency and attention. That’s why it’s valuable – because it’s not automatic. And, we often miss that this process is actually a collaboration, not something one “earns” from another through force of habit.

Developing insider status requires a particular kind of listening and learning – yes, you need to know your haunt. But, those you are a “regular” with also have to gain the inside track on you. It’s your coffee preference and your favorite equipment – these aren’t a status that’s being granted; it’s a demonstration of yourself reflected back to you. It is proof you’ve also been seen, and are also valued.

“Regular” is both sides inviting the other to participate, over and over, and creative push-pull, familiar but never the same – like a dance.

So the question is this: Are you inviting your clients to dance with you, or are you asking them to dance for you?

What are we Really Selling?

Every client wants to feel seen. And, as financial professionals, isn’t that what we sell? We sell a service that will see their business, their life, and translate it fairly and clearly to others who speak the language of data and numbers.

Representing our clients effectively to financial types, tax types, government, insurance and banking types is noble. And, using the efficiency gained by serving a client niche we love and believe in only improves our ability to shine.

But, that’s all only one side of the story. That’s because there is an implication in what we sell – that our client will also recognize that they have, in fact, been understood and represented. Yet, how often do we actually focus on ensuring this? And, if we don’t, can we truly say we are providing the service to them at all?

We May Have Forgotten Something

For all our beautiful translating and real-time reporting, we often overlook reflecting our clients and their value back to them in a language they can hear. Technology has given us unprecedented opportunity. And, we are becoming exceedingly good at choreographing moves for them and their data, and putting on shows for the outside world.

Still, that’s not the same. Hundreds of accountants can clap about all the groundbreaking things you are doing in your practice, and for your clients. And, echo chambers are fantastic places to innovate and refine. But, they don’t play music – at least not the kind you can invite someone from the outside to dance to.

First, we have to decide – do we care about this? If yes, then can we learn how to echo back to our clients and how to be their simultaneous interpreters and dance partners, so that they know we know and see that we see?

Reclaiming the “Regular” Experience

The “how” is in the term itself: a “regular” is both a special and a routine person simultaneously. It is their personal spin, over and over, on the commonly expected, that allows them to be seen and recognized.

In other words, the experience of being a regular is that instead of being buried under rules and expectations and routine, we are instead revealed by, and valued for, our take on them.

We can give clients a “regular” feeling by prioritizing their experiences, leaning into their perspectives and mining their individuality for new ways of working.

This doesn’t mean we create each system for every client from scratch – that’s not dancing either!

Instead, it means that with each new challenge, we hold in mind the possibility that:

  • What looks like deep chaos may not be. Below this surface might be an elegant and baked in order – one that we can tap.
  • And, outlier situations may be predictable and very serviceable if we approach them as a student of their processes as much as we do as a teacher of our own.

In the end, we may just transform our “strangest” clients into our staunchest allies: fiercely loyal and more than willing to bend over backward for us, when needed. 

Editor’s note: Check out part 1 of this article "How to Make Your Clients Seem Like ‘Regulars’"

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