How to Bring Accountability to Consulting
One of the problems of dealing with consultants is that anyone who has retired or been fired can put up a website and call themselves a consultant. The 4 Hour Workweek method of becoming a consultant is reading the top five books in the field, holding a few seminars and calling yourself a consultant. How can you tell who the good consultants are and hold the bad ones accountable? How can we bring accountability to consulting?
Benefits to Customers for Consultant Accountability
When someone provides lists of prior clients, they rarely if ever provide contact information for customers who were not happy with them. Online ratings force consultants to deal with their less than ideal outcomes.
By creating a single online location for online ratings of consultants in a specific industry or niche, potential customers can peruse a consolidated summary of multiple prior customers for a consultant. Online reviews of consultants also allow customers to determine for themselves if a consultant has experience in their industry or project type.
Online rating systems also permit customers to weed out those without any experience at all. Someone who has worked as a software architect in private industry may list themselves as a consultant after a layoff. They may have knowledge, but that may not qualify them for consulting with other companies with differing configurations and software modules. Lack of a reputation in an online rating system serves as a red flag. The ability to review ratings history or lack thereof permits customers to differentiate from ten years of general experience to ten years as a consultant.
Benefits to Consultants of Accountability
Consultants have no way of proving if they are good or bad. Listing a string of generic praise does not demonstrate credibility, only marketing and web content quality. The ability to refer to a third party consulting website rating page demonstrates an independent assessment of their skills. In some cases, online ratings will also inform consultants that prior projects that seemed to be going well when they departed have deteriorated since then. This allows consultants to go back to their prior clients who are unhappy and solve the problem, rather than dealing with word of mouth months or even years later.
Third party rating systems permit small, local consultants to build up a regional reputation via positive ratings. This prevents large players from dominating the consulting market while improving quality of service due through competition.
A third party consultant rating system also allows customers to avoid bad consultants. One solution for bad consultants is to drop out of the business, increasing the business volume for quality consultants. The second solution for bad consultants is to improve their quality per feedback in the rating system. This helps their personal reputation as well as that of the entire consulting industry.
Benefits to the Industry if Consultants are Rated and Reviewed
When consultants are rated independently, industry leaders and business groups can monitor rating sites for individuals fired from companies or stripped of credentials. This prevents bad apples from hurting the reputation of the industry as a whole.
Third party rating systems permits other consultants to see the credentials and experience held by their well rated peers. Instead of earning many certifications in the hopes of attracting clients, they will know the credentials of the best rated peers and then emulate them.
When the industry standards organizations are plugged into the online rating system, they can also support realistic questions. This prevents consultants from being rated on superficial matters. Done right, industry organizations can also monitor online rating sites for reports of potentially illegal activity and investigate it.
Why Accreditation Isn't Enough
Accreditation means someone has paid the membership dues for an organization and attended classes as required. An accrediting group gives a stamp of approval on those who join, while sometimes driving the educational programs of schools training future members. However, many accreditation organizations have a financial motive to expand membership and push ongoing training of dubious value to members.
Accreditation doesn't mean a career program is likely to result in employment in that field, and accreditation of a consultant may simply be a rubber stamp by an organization of like-minded consultants. This is why reputations and reviews are of greater value than accreditation in measuring the quality of consultants.