16th Aug 2017
Client service, as defined by Wikipedia, is ‘the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase’. This may sound simple, but what about delivering world-class client service? How can you go beyond ‘the sell’ and bring real value to your client relationship?
This article will outline simple, yet effective strategies that you can use to form the foundation for a world-class client service model.
The life cycle of a client can be segmented into three key elements:
No matter how amazing your idea, product or service, winning clients is essential for a successful business. You’ll place yourself in the best possible position for success by honing the following skills:
Who are your potential clients and how do you plan to reach them? Planning the right approach will set the foundation for a strong acquisition strategy.
Are you able to effectively communicate the benefits of your product to a varied audience? It is important for you to articulate the value of your product if you want to turn a prospect into a lead.
Understanding a prospect and their needs is crucial. By improving your listening skills and asking questions, you’ll get far closer to a client’s business than research alone.
Strategically interpreting the words of a potential client into solutions is a crucial skill, as is ‘reading between the lines’. Not all clients clearly articulate what they want, and some may not even understand what it is that they need. It is your role to interpret the verbal and the nonverbal cues you receive. Eye contact is the most basic of nuances that convey confidence, trust and attention.
You must continually move in a positive direction and maintain a strong working partnership. Hurdles are inevitable, but a focus on the following fundamentals will ensure your relationship thrives:
Your role is to provide feedback to your client ‘in the moment’ or as close to it as possible – SHOUT about the good news, and don’t delay the bad news. Your communication should be to-the-point but informative and strategically focused.
Ask for feedback to ensure your clients are getting the best client service from you. It’s important to ask them how they think you’re doing and if there’s anything that can be done that would make things more convenient or streamlined. This shows a level of care on your part – that client satisfaction is at the top of your priority list.
“Show that client satisfaction is a priority by asking for feedback.”
Part of delivering outstanding results and stellar service is being on time. It’s crucial to adhere to your agreed reporting dates, project deadlines and meeting times.
Clients do not automatically renew their contracts. So, planning your renewal strategy in advance will improve your chance of securing a new contract and improve the client’s confidence in your abilities.
Simply initiating a renewal conversation with your client is often the best strategy. Be prepared for the potential hard conversation and embrace the positive one. Focus on successes, but don’t shy away from identifying failure points. Honesty is the best policy – the client will appreciate your veracity.
“Prepare yourself for the hard conversations, embrace the good ones, and always be honest with your client.”
Be clear on the objectives for the following year and ensure that you carry over any learnings from one year to the next. Be confident with your projections – base them on real data gleaned from the prior year.
Above all else, be humble in your approach and don’t over-commit in regards to your strategic goals.
If you own the client relationship and are responsible for the successful execution of campaign activity, it’s very tempting to want to have all the answers for your client. A good client service lead builds trust with the client by speaking intelligently about how their services and solutions can solve business objectives – but just as important is knowing when to say “That’s a great question, and I have some thoughts on that. But first, let me regroup with my team to make sure I get their viewpoint and understand how the specifics of their channel/service/solution applies here.”
The right answer does not have to be immediate – you will continue to build trust by showing that you place more importance getting the answer right than on its immediacy.
If you thrive on being popular and well liked, client service may not be your ideal role. You’ll build strong relationships with your team and clients, share wonderful victories together, and feel a sense of amazing camaraderie – but you will also have to be ‘the bad guy’.
Tough decisions will often need to be made and you need to be confident when you make them. No matter how good you feel about any decision, there’s a chance that someone involved will disagree, and may even resent you. That’s OK.
“Not everyone needs to agree with your decisions as long as you have a strong client relationship.”
Business is about people, but people aren’t only about business. Emotions, stress, personal history and individual opinions are what make us human – and it’s humans that make a business thrive.
Not being liked, or having someone dislike something you’ve done is not the same as being disrespected or mistrusted. If you’ve built strong, trusting relationships with your clients, smoothing over the hurt shouldn’t be an insurmountable barrier. This is where you most get to play your role: you will be able to explain your rationale, hear out your client’s concerns and work through the difficulty together.
There will be highs and lows, and lessons to be learned every day. This constant growth is one of the best reasons to work in client services, especially within a digital agency: you’ll never be stagnant, you’ll always be adding to your knowledge base, and you’ll get to constantly engage with people that will challenge, support, question and champion you.
You may also like: 3 essential conversations to have with your digital agency regularly.