This Might Not Be As Easy As You Think
I’ve had a few less than stellar service experiences over the past month that has me looking introspectively at the team at Square 2. Are we doing everything we should be doing to give our clients the remarkable experience we aspire to deliver?
This effort triggered me to consider sharing some of the insights and efforts with all of you.
Because I think now more than ever, the people we have on our teams are going to make or break our efforts not only this month but for many months and years into the future.
Now more than ever, how we take care of clients is going to be the difference between success and failure.
First, let’s give some context to this stream of consciousness. Over the past few months, I’ve been doing some minor upgrades to our home and making some decent sized purchases. Like many of you and many Americans, we’re spending more time inside and more time at home.
I know that in recent months, we worked on a number of home improvement projects and upgrades. These experiences specifically got me thinking.
In a service business, it’s easy to lose track of what’s important. We’re making an extra effort to talk about, train, and remind our client services team members and the rest of the Square 2 crew how important it is to work on the following elements associated with serving clients.
1. They Have To Be Nice
Above all, just be nice. It sounds easy, but it’s not. We all have issues we’re dealing with and our clients have their own issues. We don’t always say what we mean and mean what we say.
Clients aren’t always going to be easy to deal with but above all, if we are treating everyone kindly if we are empathetic, and considerate, there is a very good chance that we’ll be able to create some very strong personal bonds with our clients and that is our goal. Long term relationships are very profitable.
2. They Have To Educate
Many of our clients are executing marketing in a new way. Some are doing all our digital transformation for marketing, sales, and service execution. Others are building a new website for the first time in five years. Regardless of the scope, they are in uncharted waters and could be anxious.
Our job is to educate them so that they are more informed, more comfortable, and have the resources to keep their stakeholders equally informed and comfortable. Education is a big part of our job and why Square 2 has a Core Value of Always Teaching And Always Learning.
3. They Have To Inspire
Just like your personal trainer at the gym or any coach you might have hired or worked with in the past, your team has to be inspiring for your clients. They have to encourage, challenge, and push your clients to do things they’ve never done before.
They have to be adept at sharing stories, using those stories to inspire, and help move your clients out of their comfort zone. It might be one of the most important and difficult parts of the job, but it has to be something we train around and encourage our people to be good at, which is the inspirational part of the role.
4. They Have To Motivate
For most of our clients, marketing is NOT the only thing they’re doing. While it’s the most important thing to us, many of them have other competing priorities. That’s why we have to be motivating. We have to keep pushing marketing to the top of the list and we have to help them understand the connections between action and outcome. We have to get them excited enough to do more and push harder.
In many cases, marketing results take longer than expected and keeping our clients motivated will keep them engaged and excited about the potential outcomes on the horizon.
5. They Have To Communicate
We are professional communicators. Our client services team members need to excel at communication. This means both written and verbal communication. They have to write concisely, they have to be compelling, they have to be clear and of course properly dispatch the English language.
They have to communicate early and often, leaving nothing to ambiguity or assumption. It’s another one of those areas where we assume people will be able to deliver, but we have to be sure and then set the bar high.
6. They Have To Lift
When we work with clients, we have to lift them up. Our meetings should be the bright spots in their day. The calls and meetings should be filled with light and positivity. Clients should be looking forward to talking with your team.
They also have to lift up the results. They have to deliver lift in all the key metrics and ultimately in the agreed-on business outcomes. I like this item because by lifting their results, we will in turn lift them up, help them grow their companies, and position our agencies as indispensable.
7. They Have To Be Responsive
This goes without saying right? Get back to clients? But when? How fast? What are the expectations? Does it depend on who they are and when they contact you? Of course, it does.
We practice some common rules here. Clients are to be contacted in the same half-day in which they contact our team. If they email in the morning, they are to be responded to before lunch. If they email in the afternoon, they are to be responded to before the end of the day. If they reach out during the evening, then first get back to them first thing in the morning. This is simple and straightforward.
If they call, you return the call. If they email and it's urgent, you call them. Finally, responding doesn’t require an answer or resolution. It simply means confirming we’ve gotten their email and we are on top of it. Fixing the issue could take much longer and that communication is issue dependent. But letting them know we’re on it, is the key to highly responsive service.
8. They Have To Be On Time
Obviously right? But today on time might be different than it was a few months ago. I find myself being just a few minutes late to a fair amount of Zoom meetings as I work on other activities right up to the final minute. Then by the time I log in, I’m two minutes late. Not good!
Make sure people understand on-time is late now. Early is on-time and to plan their meetings and time accordingly. You don’t ever want to keep clients waiting and you don’t ever want clients on the call waiting for you or other team members to join.
9. They Have To Share
Clients hire us for our experiences. That means client services team members have to share those experiences. Clients get excited when they hear these stories and they are one of the most effective tools in the tool kits.
“We recently did something similar for another client in a related industry and it provided a 20% improvement in conversions. Let’s do something similar for you.”
“We actually used the same tool/technology/software for another client and the implementation was faster than we thought, less expensive and the outcomes were better than expected. This would be an excellent option for you.”
You’re not sharing any confidential information, not violating any client’s engagement details, simply experience sharing to help your client feel confident that they are on the right track.
In addition, with so much content out there today, sharing also means pushing relevant content out to clients proactive. Articles, videos, infographics, pillar pages, podcast content, and other formats should be regularly shared with clients to help support your direction, position or provide additional context to conversations you might be having with clients.
This can be a big component of building a trusting relationship. The smarter the client, the better the client.
10. They Have To Be Confident
I’ve found this to be so important. I’ve had young consultants who speak and work with clients confidently do so much better than more senior consultants who were less confident in their delivery.
This includes the words they use.
“I think this is going to work,” is so much less effective than, “In my experience this has worked well in the past and will work for you too.”
“I hope this change produces the results we like,” doesn’t make anyone feel good, but “These changes are going to move us in the direction we agreed. Of course, I can’t promise, but in my experience, we’ll see very positive results.”
I think, I hope, I guess, and even I don't know are phrases that won't inspire confidence in your clients.
We all know we can’t promise, guarantee, or predict the future. But we all have the necessary experiences to confidently stand behind our recommendations and that’s what clients want to and need to hear from us.
11. They Have To Deliver
Finally, they have to do what they say they’re going to do when they said they would do it and they have to be specific.
“You’ll see your redesigned whitepaper on Wednesday morning or at our meeting Wednesday morning.” Not mid-week, early next week, or late next week. Be specific.
If you’re emailing back or calling back, tell clients exactly when. “I’ll get back to you before Noon tomorrow or before the end of the day tomorrow.” Which by the way, the end of the day is 5 PM, not 12 midnight. Now it can be 5 PM PST if the client is on the west coast, which gives east coasters an extra three hours, but that’s the only wiggle room I’m willing to give.
Specificity and follow up regarding delivery of anything and everything is particularly important. If you can’t commit to this level of specificity as an organization, then you need to look into your project management practices and internal communication to tighten this up.
Do these 11 things right and you’ll create amazing experiences for your clients. They will stay with you longer, they will expand their services with you, they will trust your recommendations and they will refer you frequently.
To get all these 11 practices down, you will have to double down on training and make sure that your entire delivery and client services teams are all on the same page regarding expectations for all 11 of these items.
Role play, documentation, reinforcement, modeling, and other ways to reinforce your expectations are going to be critical to creating the kind of service team and service experience that clients love. And that should be your goal, to create the agency that clients love.
Start Today Tip – How good is your current team at these 11 motions? How much do you discuss these as a team? How much training and communication is there around these practices? I’m guessing not enough because I know how busy everyone is. Make a concerted effort to review, discuss, practice, and then reinforce expectations in these areas. I think before you know it, your team will have a better idea of what’s expected from them and the level of service will rise. That’s what we’ve seen at Square 2 and the result is an almost unheard of retention rate for clients staying with us since we’ve started putting more energy into this area.
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