Specialist capabilities and personal recommendations both carry weight with the customer. Price is also a factor they must consider, but, when push comes to shove, consultancies get contracts based on their reputation.

These are the findings of the 2006 survey and year after year it is reputation that takes the top slot in terms of customer concerns.

So which of the 51 consultancies covered by the survey has the best overall reputation, according to our respondents?

With outstanding results across the board, winning three out of the seven sector-based reputational surveys and consistently performing well in other areas, it will come as little surprise that Atkins takes the top spot, with the best overall reputation amongst customers and consultants alike.

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Entec has the honour of coming a close second, voted into the ‘silver’ slot by both its peers and the clients, giving Atkins a particularly close run for its money from the point of view of those working within the industry.

When it comes to third place, there is a split result, with consultants putting ERM in the ‘bronze’ slot but the all-important customers giving their vote of confidence to Enviros.

Richard Scrase, a spokesman for Atkins, told edie: “We’re obviously delighted to have fared so well once again in the survey. We believe these excellent ratings reflect the dedication, skill and professionalism of the many people who make up our environment business.

“As well as one of the UK’s largest environmental consultancies we also have many environmental specialists working within other parts of the Atkins Group, so we can draw on an immense wealth of expertise specific to a host of different markets and industries, including aviation, defence, highways, nuclear, rail, and water.

“We know that this provides us with an unmatched breadth of knowledge in the environment consultancy sector, enabling us to tailor innovative but practical solutions to meet client needs.”

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Nigel Clark, marketing director at Enviros, put his company’s success down to a long track record and a broad range of services, which meant customers needing services from all manner of specialists have dealings with the consultancy.

The fact that Enviros was a dedicated environmental consultancy rather than a specialised wing of a more general company also counted in its favour, he claimed.

“It’s a very fast market but we have been here for a long time,” he said.

“We’ve got genuine strengths across the board so we are able to field a broad service.

“Clients in the waste, energy and land arenas all know us well. We try not to have any weak areas so there’s nothing that lets us down.

“We pride ourselves on the quality of service we provide – we’re probably not the cheapest service in the marketplace but clients get quality and value from us. Neither are we the biggest, but I’m interested to see people think we are one of the top three in terms of the amount of work we do in the sector.

“If there is a difference about us – and it’s not unique, there are two or three other players who can boast this – it is that everything we do fits inside the environmental consultancy sector. This is what we do.

“A lot of new names have come into the marketplace and built environmental consultancy onto a broad range of other services, whereas this is what we specialise in.”

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Francesco Corsi, a spokesman for Entec, said the company had built a solid reputation by allowing customer needs to shape its growth and taking a long-term view rather than trying to make a quick buck.

He took the opposite view to Enviros, arguing that being able to offer skills outside the environmental arena – such as engineering – enhanced a consultancy’s versatility and reputation.

“We’ve grown fairly organically by adding people and winning work, rather than through acquisitions, which we think is a steadier approach and that in turn gives us strong foundations to build on, whereas a number of other companies in the sector have gone through major upheavals and restructuring in recent years,” he said.

“We try to take a long-term view of our role as a business and invest in our people in terms of professional development – which translates into good service for our customers.”

“For the past decade, monitoring customer satisfaction has been an important part of every job Entec has carried out,” he said.

The consultancy has a detailed customer feedback process, quizzing clients on how the company has performed on various criteria including adherence to deadlines, ease of contact and quality of service.

“Good customer feedback is a good indicator that you’re building a successful future,” said Mr Corsi.

“You can look at your profits today and that will tell you how you are doing now, but it’s the customers who let you know what you can expect in the future.”

Sam Bond

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