The Art of Client Service: A Review
Client service is a learned skill, but, typically, professionals working in this space are expected to feel their way along with minimal training, learning from their mistakes, and often get advice from the wrong places.
The Art of Client Service by Robert Solomon is a wonderfully written instruction manual that can help anyone be more successful in working with clients. Serving your clients is the most important aspect in the services business, and this book helps lay a solid foundation.
When I first read “The Art of Client Service,” it changed the way I viewed account management. I was under the impression my job was to be an advocate for our clients, and make sure their voices are heard and their ideas are brought to life. This book explained how important it is for account people to have great ideas, build trust with clients AND your team, and to be part of the business development process, among other things. According to Solomon, there are 52 things every advertising and marketing professional should know, but I’d argue that anyone in client creative services, regardless of department, should know these things.
Here are my top 5 takeaways:
Respect what it takes to do creative work.
An account person’s job is “to improve the work, not approve it.” At almost every agency there are different departments (at automätik, we have instructional design, graphics, production, logistics, video, administrative, and client service) with different areas of expertise, and each requires different strengths and talents. It’s important to respect the strengths of every employee and recognize the various challenges they face. Acknowledging this will help build motivation and collaboration, which is an essential part of delivering great work to the client.
In a high-tech world, it pays to be low tech.
Most of us have a smart phone, a tablet, a company website, a LinkedIn account, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account, along with an email address that allow us to be in contact with our clients 24/7. I’ve tried to make a habit of responding to voicemails and emails within an hour of receiving it, which can open the door to sending emails late into the night. This is productive, but is it personal? The absence of in-person connection creates a world where you are more in touch but less connected with the people you serve. Meeting in-person is hard. It takes more time. Calling or emailing is easier, but don’t take the easy way out! Make it a point to meet with your clients AND colleagues in-person—as much as possible. Get out there and build relationships in-person. It will pay off, especially when you need references to secure future projects.
Judgement overrides any rule.
Martin Puris, co-founder and former CEO of Ammirati & Puris, has said, “The job of account executive is the most difficult in the agency business. It’s an intellectual high-wire act.”
Account people live in a world of exceptions. Robert Solomon says, “No rule can accommodate every situation, and no list of rules is exhaustive. In the end, the only rule you can rely on is this: judgement rules.” Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because you will learn from them. Good judgement comes from previous bad judgement. Trust your gut (and previous experience).
Live the client’s brand.
You should be a customer of your client. At automätik, we offer incentives for employees when they purchase a new vehicle from one of our clients. Simply purchasing products is not enough, though, and you should go beyond that. Know the history of the company. Know the people that work there. Observe the culture. Read press releases, read articles from reputable sources about your client and their products/services. Understand your client’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Become an invaluable resource of history and continuity for your clients.
How happy clients help you gain new ones.
When you are looking for a restaurant or movie recommendation, you could easily look to the internet for help, but, oftentimes, you will turn to your friends and colleagues for their recommendation. With millions of resources at our finger tips, it’s amazing that word-of-mouth referrals remain the most incredible form of marketing. Clients that love your work, like how you do business, and trust you as partners are more than likely to refer your company to other people and companies. You have an immediate connection with a prospective client all because of the relationship you built with an existing client. Happy clients, happy agency.
Service is a core philosophy at automätik and is embraced by every person in the company. The passion to serve and to delight both internal and external customers is in our DNA. It is who we are. The Art of Client Service by Robert Solomon is a great reminder that you are either serving the external client directly or serving someone who is responsible for serving your external clients. Communicate effectively, build quality relationships with clients and colleagues, and stay focused on the goal at hand. Most importantly, strive to consistently deliver excellent service to all stakeholders.