During research studies, there are often recurring themes in terms of what is important to customers irrespective of client, industry, or geography. One that always comes up is client service, which is an extremely important consideration for any business, and a key differentiator for those that do it well.
Some things to consider:
- Meeting preparation: Outcome focused, well managed, and with clear objectives and goals. Single person to lead the meeting and drive follow-up actions.
- Punctuality: Be on time for meetings, as it sends all the wrong signals to peers and clients alike, if you are consistently late.
- Conference reports: Sent out within 24 hours, ideally within an hour of the meeting, capturing details and action items. Short, sweet and to the point.
- Statements of Work: Be fair, honest, and clear with pricing. Provide options if possible.
- Timelines: Be clear, accurate, and realistic. Do not pad timelines – as it creates mistrust, and ultimately you will be found out!
- Communication. Short, sweet and to the point. Avoid fluff if possible. If you go back and forth via email more than three times, pick up the phone.
- Managing client expectations: Provide client with options in time-pressured situations to avoid potential conflict. Have the confidence to say “I don’t know” if you are unsure how to answer a client question, and then get back to the client in a timely manner.
- Documentation: Always ask the right questions up-front, thoroughly scoping the project, and ensuring that business goals are understood.
- Professionalism: Conduct yourself to the highest possible standards. Every interaction with clients, peers, partners, and vendors counts. Treat them all well!
- Customer needs: Don’t create a business environment and rules of engagement based on your needs. Base them more on the needs of your customers! While you may think that your bottom-line is more important than theirs, you wouldn’t be in business without them!<.li>
We’ve worked with some of our clients for over a decade now, and when people ask how we are able to achieve this kind of tenure when the average agency/client relationship last two years, it often comes back to Client Service. So why are we are sharing the “Secret Sauce”? It’s easy to talk about Client Service. But you have to practice as you preach!.
Let us know if you have any great (or just plain awful) client service lessons? We’d love to hear from you.
-by David Sly, President