Where’s the Value: Deliverables or the Delivery?


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In working with clients, what percentage of the work you do is knowledge/skills based and what percentage is psychologically based?
Robert Middleton, a marketing guru, asked this question of at recent management consulting conference.
Several people laughed and then someone stood up and said: I’ve never done a client engagement where 85% of the issues weren’t psychologically based.That was typical of the rest of the answers.
There is a double paradox operating here. First, that was NEVER why the client thought they brought in the consultant. Second, consultants constantly invest in their knowledge and skills but seldom work on improving their relationship skills.
How does this map against your interactions with clients and customers? Is there a parallel in the interactions between companies and customers?


  1. John – interesting thought.

    Starting with your opening questions – what % of the work is knowledge/skills vs pshychologically based? – I have to opine that in the professional services space (especially the knowledge industry like IT consulting), most of the work tends to be knowledge / skills based.

    But if the question is changed to – what % of engagement/service delivery issues are knowledge/skills vs pshychologically based – then I agree that most are of the later variety. This again has a high co-relation to double paradox you have highlighted. Many clients too tend to make choices based on hard skills rather than soft skills – further driving the industry players to concentrate on the hard skills.

    In the IT consulting services industry, the demand-supply situation too is driving focus away from softer aspects like customer centricity or relationship orientation. But then, the industry itself is far from maturity.


  2. Deliverables are results. Delivery is the process. Value lies not only in the deliverables but also the process. It is not an OR issue, but AND. Deliverables deliver positive experience when they bring value. Process is executed by people. If people produce negative experience, then the process will also be negative. In order to achieve touchpoint experience excellence, both people and deliverables should deliver positive experience.

    Daryl Choy, the founder of WisdomBoom and Touchpoint eXperience Management, helps firms make a difference at every touchpoint. Choy can be reached at wisdomboom.blogspot.com.

  3. John

    I agree with Shub in that it isn’t one factor or another but a number of factors. For example, studies of customer service satisfaction using the ‘Justice Model’ show that customers are only satisfied when they get the outcome they were looking for and the process they have to go through works and the interpersonal interaction is appropriate too. It’s not an either or proposition, it’s an ‘and and’ proposition.

    From my own 20 plus years of experience working for major management consultancies, clients generally pick consultant teams on the bases of their demonstrated knowledge, skills and experience. They want a team to come in who has done it before with other companies and can make it happen at their own organisation quickly. Only occasionally have I seen softer issues being taken into account with equal weight.

    Once the project gets underway, although delivery is very important, so to is the style in which the project is delivered and the working relationship. And sell-on work is clearly dominated by the quality of the relationship.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  4. John

    I had another thought whilst out shopping this afternoon.

    Perhaps we are all missing the point. It occurs to me that it isn’t about delivery or about deliverables at all. It’s about what that enables customers to do. It’s about the deliverable in use.

    Three different experience threads combine to drive this insight.

    New Service Dominant Logic
    Vargo & Lusch’s work on the New Service Dominant Logic shows that value is created by the product or service during its usage, not at the point of sale, as was always the marketing assumption. Delivery is not enough. Incidentally this implies that post-sale customer service should be seen as an essential part of the marketing mix, not just as a poor cost-centre relation as at present. (Hello Sprint, are you listening?).

    Rethinking Customer Solutions
    Tuli, Kohli & Bharadwaj’s work on Rethinking Customer Solutions: From Product Bundles to Relational Processes shows that customers see things differently from marketers. Whereas marketers think about bundles of products & services in so-called ‘customer solutions’, customers look much more to help in understanding their own needs, in constructing personal solutions and to support over the lifetime of the solution to get the best out of it. Again, delivery is not enough.

    What Drives Effective Training
    In an earlier consulting assignment, I ran one of Europe’s biggest training projects; 10,000 UK Government staff to be trained in modern management skills, by 85 trainers, over 18 months. But training itself only accounts for up to 40% of the desired training effect. The remaining 60% is delivered through preparation for the training and , in particular, by support back in the workplace over the 12-18 months after the training has been delivered. Once again, delivery is not enough.

    Perhaps it is time for consultants to recognise that just delivering a project is not enough. The real value comes during the months and years after the project has been put into practice. This is when value is really created.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  5. Guys,

    Some interesting and provocative comments. I like Shub’s rephrasing. “What % of the engagement/service delivery issues are knowledge/skills vs psychological based. When this definition is used, there seems to be more consensuses that both are involved. Like Daryl points out, not OR but AND.

    What intrigues me is the tendency for us to assume that logical says that the knowledge is the most valuable component. Yet, we seem to be saying that the client doesn’t judge the project this way.

    Graham, in your first post you seem to imply that companies hire consultants based on their knowledge and experience. Yet, it is not uncommon for a consulting firm to have a very knowledgeable consultant that clients don’t want to rehire. Perhaps their experience with him bring to the surface qualities that are important other than his knowledge.

    Graham, in your second post you brings some great focus to the issue. First, the perspective the two parties bring to the hiring and initial view of project scope. Second, a potentially large divergence in perception of the delivery of value.

    Thes are a very BIG issues. I was hoping the Middleton question would get us into this discussion. Your example is a good one and forces us to think beyond what was the initial deliverable. A training program. It seems obvious that clients want the results of effective training that changes business practice.

    There are some challenging issues here, especially since clients change their perception of what they want as they get their eyes opened.

    Hopefully we can keep this discussion active in the blogs or switch it to a Forum discussion

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company.


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