Sometimes, the biggest problem with a client engagement is…well, the client. If only the client were properly involved, it would be so much easier to do compliance assessments! Even the clients you really like can be a trial, sometimes.
The problem with client relationships is gaining a cadence with the client team. You’ve got two teams—your QSA firm and your client—when you should be acting as one team with integrated roles. But when you’re not on the same page, it generates friction that throws off your client engagement.
Your job as compliance assessor is to help your clients successfully navigate their objectives, get on the same page and work with you, as a single team. Here are five sure-fire tips to equip you as the team captain.
Handpicked related content: Build a Winning Team for Compliance and Auditing
Most people think they’re great at communication, but most of us are lousy communicators. Just because you’re relaying information to your client, that doesn’t mean you’re communicating well. Remember that your clients don’t have your knowledge or experience, so you may need to communicate with them like you’re explaining phishing to your grandmother. Don’t use jargon they won’t understand, and always explain the why as well as the what.
Also, keep in mind that your clients that are new to the compliance realm. They see it as a mysterious black box. They don’t understand how it works, and they have no clue what they need to provide to you. Your QSA firm’s process may not make sense to them, and certification itself is an overwhelming mystery. Be sure to help them understand your own processes, as well as the certification process. The more they understand, the easier it will be to work with them.
Finally, be a good listener. Ask clarifying questions, and seek to understand them. The more you know about your client, the better you’ll work together, as a team.
2) Be an Educator, Not Just an Assessor
You’re not a consultant, and it’s not your job to explain everything about compliance. But part of your communication with clients should be educating them on certain basics. I already mentioned explaining processes, but you’ll need to do more explaining than just that. For example, make your expectations for clients clear from the start—before the contract is signed. Let them know what they’re in for, and keep an eye out for bumps in the road that might be approaching. Take on the role of an educator, and you’ll develop a teammate rather than an opponent.
Bonus: share this with your clients! What Does Your Compliance Auditor Expect from You?
3) Build Relationships
Successful assessment firms understand that their clients aren’t organizations, but real people. Your clients want to be treated like people, not automatons. When you take the time to build relationships with your clients, your clients will give more of themselves to the tasks at hand—and you’ll enjoy the engagement more.
4) Be Proactive
If you’ve been an assessor for long, you can spot trouble before it comes. You know early on when your client is hiding something, or if they’re going to be high-maintenance. You can tell when their lack of compliance experience is going to mean extra work for you.
If you wait for the trouble to come to you, you’re just as much to blame for it as the client is! Be proactive with them and nip the problems in the bud. Remind them what their role is and what your role is, and keep them accountable for their end of the deal. There will always be a client that just wants to get the compliance boxes checked off, but most people want the assessment to go as smoothly as possible. They’ll be glad if you stop problems before they start.
As with most good processes, get proactive about your own process wiki. Turn lessons learned into enhancements in your processes and procedures. Your approach to engagements needs to be one of continual improvement—otherwise, you’ll be doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different result and we all know what that means. That said, it’s far easier said than done, and the culture of your assessment firm is what will make your engagements progressively more efficient and proactive.
5) Be Easy to Work With
Sometimes you’ve got to be firm with your clients, but it’s also important to be flexible whenever possible. You’re working as a team, which means there’s got to be some give-and-take. Otherwise, friction sets in and things start to take on an adversarial nature, and soon everything becomes a major pain. But the easier you are to work with, the more your clients will cooperate with you as a team.
Some best practices to follow:
- Leave your ego at the door. It’s easy to become offended by miscommunication—especially email or text. Rather than jumping to conclusions, assume the best about your client. And remember, you’re there to serve them—don’t slip into a demand-centered mindset.
- Use helpful technology. Automate as much as you can, and use a system that simplifies the assessment and certification process. TCT Portal is gaining a reputation for clarifying requirements and streamlining communications between QSA firms and their clients. Especially for those assessment firms that adopt a culture of continual improvement.
- Be flexible to their needs. Sometimes your client will be bound by their own processes, communication protocols and legacy systems. They may not always be able to deliver what you need, when you need it, how you need it. This is a team sport—be as flexible as possible to make it a mutually enjoyable engagement while meeting the essence of the requirement in question.
Build a Winning Team
Got clients that aren’t team players? Make sure you’re making it easy for them to work with you by following these five tips.
TCT is your partner to help streamline client engagements. We’ve been on both sides of the compliance process, and we have years of consulting experience under our belt. Our TCT Portal is designed to give assessors and clients the quickest, simplest and most understandable compliance experience possible. Some assessors are calling it a lifesaver in their engagements.
Find out how we can maximize your client engagements—get a personalized demo today.