Reversing roles to become the client

April 4, 2018 by

Empathy isn’t a word you hear a lot in business. We’re led to believe that business can be cutthroat, and success comes from relentlessly pursuing your goals without much concern for others.

Well, we disagree. Empathy in the business world is about understanding people and the marketplace around them, which is often the difference between success and failure. Good consultants empathize with clients. It’s a practice we take to heart, and something we experienced firsthand recently with a little role reversal.

The tables were turned when we worked with students through the MBA Applied Strategy program at UW’s Foster School of Business, which links students to consulting projects from local businesses. MBA students apply coursework to real-life business challenges, and sponsor companies benefit from an outside perspective with fresh skills.

We had the ideal real-life project. A friend of 2A is working on creating an eSports business, and we’ve been providing some marketing support to get his idea off the ground. We’ve had exposure to eSports through projects with Xbox and ASTRO Gaming, but an external group could test our assumptions and uncover research. After nine weeks our MBA team delivered a professional presentation that improved our understanding of the industry, but we learned even more from serving as the client.

My biggest takeaway from this role reversal is that we assume clients have lots of control, but in fact they may not. Even a dream client cannot control unforeseeable circumstances like new information or business strategies. This experience also reaffirmed that clients are very busy, and that managing your own job while working with consultants can feel like double duty.

There is no magic bullet to solve these challenges, but effective and efficient communication helps greatly. It can help us understand clients, save their time, and respond with work that better fits their needs. Focusing on empathy can make all the difference, and the right communication can be the vehicle to satisfying clients.