If you’ve been in cost reduction consulting for any period of time, you’ve stood on the fine dividing customer satisfaction and customer service.

When project selection arises, it’s typical to see clients select less significant, less sensational spends for cost reduction because they simply don’t want to tackle the perceived “risk” or worse yet, the political hassles.

It creates the ultimate conundrum; if a client hires you to put significant dollars back on their bottom line, how can you do so tackling modest spends? Of course the client will feel better (in the instant) if their hired gun shoots only at the targets they select, but they’ll never see the substantive impact they truly need.

At that moment, every cost reduction consultant is faced with a choice. You can be the nice the guy, or the effective guy. The nice guy takes what he’s handed, accepts modest results and usually a terminal engagement. The effective guy explains to clients that they have to take the John Dillinger approach (rob banks because that’s where the money is) and weather the slings and arrows of righteous procurement staff indignation.

But a clearer perspective reveals that the effective guy and the nice guy actually are the same guy.

Consider how well served you would feel if your doctor diagnosed only the minor ailments you wished to address, and left the major problems out of the exam results? Is that a true service, or is it malpractice?

If we view businesses in the same holistic fashion as a living organism, and in many ways they are, telling clients where to focus their “treatment plan” is the kindest, most compassionate approach for their long term well being.

So the next time a client shrinks from substantive work and you’re tempted to be the nice guy, remember who the nice guy really is. Real Customer Service is about treating the client so that they thrive in the far term, not just soothing them in the moment.

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