We’ve done a lot of research into how clients think about the value consultants add. The best way is one of the simplest: to ask someone whether a firm has added value over and above the fees they charged, writes Fiona Czerniawska of Source.

It’s a question a client can instinctively relate to and, by adding some supplementary questions about value as a multiple of fees charged, we can also gauge the extent to which this perceived value has been marginal or genuinely game-changing.

If we take all of our client data from 2016 (2017 data will be available soon… ), clients are pretty happy with the quality of work consultants do (globally, 65% would describe it as good or very good), but they’re unconvinced about the value they add. Only 35% of clients say that the consulting firms they’ve worked with have added more value than they took in fees, while 48% say that fees were in line with the service delivered, and the remaining 17% think that consultants take more in fees than they add in value. Not exactly a stellar report card.

That’s at a global level, across all the firms we gather data on. But looking at individual firms, we’ve noticed a bizarre pattern.