Olive Fogarty, a Zahra Media Group Board Member, has worked at many different agencies and is fluent in the language of client service. In this post, she shares how you can develop those important skills for yourself and your team.
Good client service, like all good relationships, is based on the fundamental human values of trust, respect and decency. It may sound old fashioned in today’s digital world but actually, it counts even more now. Despite its old school nature, good client service has always been and always will be the basis of good partnerships and great work. And there’s nothing outdated about that!
Believe it or not, I still cite the same “rules” to our new recruits that I first learned as a junior account executive in Arks back in the day.
Here’s my top 10 tips for brilliant client service:
1. Earn their trust.
This is down to basics of always doing the simple things right and being reliable, all of which builds their confidence in you.
2. First, listen, then ask!
Research their business and brand, do your homework and go in with knowledge and with questions prepared. Really listen to what they say, clarify anything you’re not clear on and don’t be in a rush to offer a solution. Often it’s better to take a day to consider what they’ve told you before making any proposals.
3. Understand the context.
Clients are people too. They have ambition, a boss, a team, insecurities, targets and goals.
4. Be flexible and pragmatic.
Processes are really important but don’t always live by the rules. Use your judgment especially if the client is in a bind. There’s nothing like finding a shared solution to a client problem to create a real bond between both parties. Always be fair with your clients. Welcome, in fact invite, feedback or even criticism (and listen!).
5. Know their business.
Buy and use their product. Understand their market. Get into the mindset of their target audience – you’re bound to know someone with that profile if the brand isn’t aimed at you. Then (mentally) walk in your clients’ shoes. What keeps them awake? Their market share, their consumers, their competitors…………their colleagues.
6. Know them personally.
Invest time in getting to know them as a person, not just a professional client. But do it gently and over time, otherwise you’ll come across like a stalker. Learn about their Interests, their family status/kids – connect personally.
7. Be professional in their interaction with your business.
Even if you do become friends with your clients, which often happens, keep the professional professional. Always prepare for meetings, send an agenda in advance and follow up note of decisions and actions.
8. Do a client/brand plan.
For long term clients always do a plan, be annual or by campaign. Work out what you want to achieve, set objectives, develop a strategy, map out activities for their brand and for your relationship with the client. Push the boundaries – be innovative. Excite the client and become a ‘valued partner’ not just a supplier.
9. Do a regular client business review.
Know the numbers behind the client and interrogate them. What we are doing well? What we need to improve on? Don’t be afraid to revisit the strategy if needed. Look at competitors: good/bad. What are significant market trends? Involve senior clients where possible to ensure buy in further up the line.
10. What you can do internally…
Share successes with colleagues. Flag concerns early!!! Always have higher standards than your client. Involve your team in developing amazing solutions. Own The Relationship!