Savage counsel

Chris SavageIn an article that first appeared in Encore, Chris Savage tackles your career and agency dilemmas in his weekly advice column.

Hi Chris,

My clients seem to be demanding more and more from us. At the same time, it seems many of the younger people in our industry simply don’t have the client servicing skills my generation grew up with. How do we instill in our executives some of the good old-fashioned behaviours that would keep a client happy and loyal?

Bloody difficult issue. Fact is, winning clients is far easier than keeping them. Chuck Porter, the founder of iconic agency Crispin Porter Bogusky, told the 2010 Cannes Creativity Festival his secret to building a great agency – hire client ninjas: talented executives who live and breathe delivering outstanding service and value to the client.

Sadly, there are not too many client service ninjas around so we have to create them. At STW Group, we are relentless in training our people on the absolute critical imperative of delivering world-class service. Here are the 10 vital habits of client service excellence we instill in our people, many of which stem from the writings of David Ogilvy.

These are not secrets. They are obvious and common sense. The trick is actually making them happen every day for every client.

Do great work in a proactive way. Deliver great work that delivers results and exceeds expectations. And do it proactively. Take ideas to the client. Be one step ahead. Clients want us to be delivering what’s now, but also anticipating what’s next.

Stick to your deadlines. Do what you say you will do and communicate early if you won’t deliver on a promise. Under promise and over deliver.

Get the details right. Cameron Hall, Australian NutraSweet CEO in the late 1980s, hammered me on God being in the detail. Bill Marsteller, a founder of Burson-Marsteller, described excellence as “clarity of purpose; attention to detail”. Sweat the detail.

Never tell the client a lie. Never lie, though as in life, it is okay to sensibly manage perceptions on occasion.

Know their business. When clients stop working with us, 82 per cent of the time it’s because we don’t know their business well enough. Get deep. Get passionate. Keep in the trenches of their business. Get in their shoes and stay there.

Listen like thieves. Listen with your eyes. When you’re talking, the client is critiquing. When the client is talking, you’re selling.

Write well. Enough said.

Have respect. Respect clients’ time and their culture. Use the client’s products. Don’t let the client disrespect you or your colleagues.

Be positive. Be a ray of sunshine in clients’ lives. Be the bringer of hope. Be optimistic. Be ‘can do’. Be honest and tell the truth but always focus on the solutions and positive options to move forward.

Make it fun. The relationship needs to be an exciting, colourful, interesting, fun part of our client’s work lives. Make it that and keep it that way.

Consistently deliver great client service, underpinned by great work that works. Do that and you will have long, growing, highly profitable and enjoyable client relationships for years to come.

Encore Issue 14

This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.



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