Taking Care of Clients June 30, 2017 by Shannon Hill IF YOU DON’T TAKE EXEMPLARY CARE OF YOUR CLIENTS, SOMEONE ELSE WILL Great businesses make sure what is promised from the inside is delivered on the outside. One of the overlooked opportunities that exist in the marketing mix is exemplary client care. The worth of a company, the momentum of its growth and the stability of its resources all rest on whether or not our value to our clients has them swatting away competitors like flies at a picnic. Unfortunately, many companies devote little time to this lost art and many remain unaware about the collective ramifications poor client care has on their business. With the marketplace as competitive as it is today, if you don’t have the right disciplines in place to super-serve your clients in a way that is meaningful, you will lose relationships, damage your brand, and add undue stress to your life. If you do serve them well you will secure more business, get more referrals and sleep better at night. Here are a few thoughts: The first step to amazing client care is just that, you have to care. You can’t fake caring, you can only care like a fake. Clients can spot a self-serving disposition with ease; they’ve become expert at it because they’ve had to endure so much of it, as have we. If you are out for yourself rather than for your clients, the clock is ticking and it would be advisable to take some time to determine the long-term implications if you don’t begin genuinely caring for your clients. This is Client Care 101 – the reality that the more you care, the more innovations and more value you will bring to the relationship. Next, clarify the individual expectations of each client. They’re all different, so learn their needs and discover what has frustrated them in working with past business partners – you know… learn from the ones they fired. Often, account managers and service teams don’t know what to deliver because they fail to employ strategic inquiry. They remain ignorant rather than curious or assume all clients want the same thing. Consider developing an onboarding questionnaire to clarify client expectations so you can design the right service model for each client. It should not only cover the basics, but the details of the how the client wants to be handled in every aspect of the relationship. Invest some up-front time setting up your best practices, processes and technologies to automate and simplify servicing your clients. The easier you make it, the more you’ll do it. The more you have automated, the less room for error. Conduct a client survey early on and well into the relationship to get a pulse on how you’re doing. In other words, stay curious as clients are dynamic, not static, always changing, always growing. There have been times I thought I was doing great with a client, when in fact they had a completely different experience. Inquiries whether an online form or a lunch are also great opportunities to discover how you can do more business together, ask for referrals or be introduced into other parts of the company if relevant. Clients love to know you’re striving to make their lives more efficient, more productive and more enjoyable, and it will solidify the relationship when the competitors come knocking. And they will. Client problems? Inevitable? Yes! Destructive? It depends on how you handle them. Somewhere in every service person’s mindset there is a twisted idea that problems will disappear or tone down in intensity if you postpone dealing with them. When a problem arises, deal with it as if your pants just caught fire… that fast. Also confirm the client is satisfied with how you handled the issue, post solution – every time. Keep every commitment to your clients. Sound elementary? You’d be surprised (but perhaps not) at how many people keep a slightly above average percentage of their commitments and call themselves pros. Pros show up on time, deliver when they promised and follow up when they said they would, down to the detail. Can we keep every commitment every time? It’s possible if you’re willing to renegotiate a potential broken commitment prior to the commitment deadline.. That’s your lifeline to keeping commitments for all time. Don’t stretch the truth with your clients, ever…even a little. For example: “We can get that in 4 weeks,” when you know it will take 5. “We have 45 full-time professionals,” when you only have 39. “Our client satisfaction rate is 100%, when it’s pushing 80%.” We call these sales exaggerations and in corporate America they’re as common as breathing. If you tell the truth 100% of the time, even when you miss it, your conviction will multiply, you’ll feel better about yourself, and you’ll create more rewarding, more enduring relationships. If you tell little white lies… well, in the real world, that’s called a liar. Exceed customer expectations once in a while. You don’t have to do it every time as it’s not expected, but do it occasionally. If you exceed expectations occasionally, your client’s perspective will be that you do it all the time. You’ve heard the old adage “it takes 10 times the effort to get a new client than keep an old one.” Whatever the adage, analogy or metaphor, make outstanding client service something you deliver on with integrity and consistency; the money will follow and so will your clients, wherever you go. Shannon Hill is a Senior Vice President for KBS, overseeing over 2.2 million square feet in the northeast U.S.