Whatever happened to the word ‘service’ in Account Service? I know times are tough, the economy is bad, and we don’t have the expense accounts of yesteryear to take our clients to lavish dinners and golf outings every week. But does that mean we care less about them, or about providing service to them that fosters good client relationships?
It seems to me in this sped-up world we live in, relationships with clients might be suffering. Social media has offered up all sorts of windows into the personal lives of our friends/enemies/clients/lovers/acquaintances’, and we should know absolutely everything about them and what makes them tick. Yet the opposite stands the chance of happening in agency-client relationships, and I think we need to get back to basics and remember the ‘service’ portion of Account Service:
Pick up a phone
Yes, I know in this recession, with shrinking budgets and rampant financial paranoia, we always need a paper trail of conversations (to CYA in case there is ever a problem with a project) – but how nice is it to get on the phone and discuss a project every now and then? Talking on the phone is an excellent way to build strong relationships with a client. It’s a lost medium of communication, and it adds a personal touch to your client service. Plus it helps keep your inbox somewhat cleaned up!
Listen and ask questions
It sounds trivial, but these essentials can easily be overlooked. We might see ‘working time’ with clients as too valuable not to be spent discussing budgets, timelines, objectives and strategies. But we also need to find the time to ask about family, hobbies, food preferences or current events. Making small talk is only natural, and learning more about your client will give you valuable insight in how to work with them and solid nuggets of information about what sort of things they like (for those times when the budget does allow for a fun agency-client outing together).
Don’t be afraid to be friends
Seriously. It’s OK to be their client AND their friend. We’ve all had clients with whom we haven’t exactly ‘meshed’. And we’ve all had clients with whom we’ve hit it off, and later had them become true friends. The latter is definitely more enjoyable to interact with on a daily basis. And if you feel ‘cheesy’ for wanting to learn more about your clients. . . .DON’T! I’ve been accused of being cheesy as an Account Service person (and maybe I am a little cheesy). But I also have a sales background and I truly enjoy people and learning more about them. And while I certainly have some Marketing shortcomings, I will never let client relations be one of them.
* Editor’s note: the author is currently in a very healthy client relationship, and can often be seen speaking on the phone with them.