Ten Commandments for Effective Client Service for Business

Agency Initiatives, Best Practices, Client Service, Graphic Design Sep 15, 2016 2 Comments

Where Has Customer Service Gone?

More than ever we question where in the world has the concept of good customer service has gone? Whether you’ve got an issue with your phone bill or you’re trying to fix a broken appliance, there seems to be a general lack of customer-first service. This is often written off as a result of outsourcing. But it’s not that simple.

Maybe because we’re in the client service industry we notice this more than the average bear. But either way, we think every group that works with people — which would be every business — should follow our Ten Commandments to ensure appropriate client service.

1. Always Maintain Your Ethics

Being ethical is probably the most important concept to running any successful business. Maintaining high ethical standards, both internally and externally, is the foundation for everything else your company does. If you operate within the most fundamental concepts of what’s right and what’s wrong, and you’re on the “what’s right side,” it’s going to show in all your professional interactions. Just do what’s right. And do it consistently. It’s easy. And it feels good.

2. Never Misrepresent Yourself

In other words, don’t lie. This may seem obvious and should go without saying. If you’re operating ethically, the chance you’ll misrepresent yourself is probably small. It’s common practice for agencies in our industry to “fudge” the truth. Especially during the new business phase. It’s only after receiving the project that they scramble to situate themselves in a way to deliver on promises previously made. If you’re part of an international network of offices, it’s likely your agency is going to provide all the capabilities you claim. But if you’re a small agency, you’ll probably have a network of partners who routinely fill some gaps here and there. Either approach is fine. Just don’t say you can do something you can’t.

3. Always Deliver on Your Promise

This is a biggie. When you don’t deliver on your promises to your clients you lose credibility — something that can damage your reputation forever. Simply put, do what you say you’re going to do. Meet your deadlines. And deliver the project as you said you would. It’s inevitable that one day — or maybe every day — you’ll find things not going as planned. Problems happen. Deal with them. They’re usually not career-enders. Simply do what needs to be done to make sure you’re delivering what you promised. And if for some reason you can’t, it’s easy to explain the situation by keeping the customer in the loop. Believe us, they’ll understand.

4. The Customer is Always Right

An old cliche, but one that is probably something you should still live by. Even in 2011. If you’re in a client service industry, which is most of us are, the customer is still always right. However they aren’t often treated that way. Your customers chose you from a long list of competitors. You thought they were right when they did that. And they’re paying your bills, which you also think is right. So when they seem over-demanding, send too many emails, want to talk about their cats (we don’t much like cats). This is all right too. Agencies need to step it up when it comes to treating their clients properly. If it weren’t for them, you might not have a job. And that, of course, would be something you’d think wasn’t right.

5. But When They’re Wrong, Tell Them

This might seem opposed to Commandment #4. But it’s not. Sometimes even the rightest client comes up with wrongest idea. And if the idea is wrong, it’s your job to explain why you’d do things differently. One of our favorite bloggers, Gini Dietrich at Spin Sucks explained this very well in a recent post about a chocolate company seeking to teach children about portion control and healthy eating habits. Sometimes your client will propose what they think is a great concept. And who knows their business better than they do, right? But they hired you for your expertise. And if the concept they’re proposing is truly not in their best interest, it’s your job to explain why. Not the most enjoyable of conversations, but your investment in doing right by their business will be appreciated.

6. Treat the Client with Respect

Your customers are just human beings. Even if they don’t seem like it. They’ve got their own professional egos, their own emotions and their own specific concerns — some of which you won’t fully understand. We like to think of our new clients as strangers who we’ll eventually turn into friends. We approach all business relationships as equals, members of a unified team working together for a desired outcome. As such, everyone on the team brings their own value to the project. All opinions are valid. Everyone deserves and gets the same respect.

7. Spend Your Client’s Money Like it’s Your Own

Another Commandment often considered cliche. But it’s also true. Agencies like ours say they do this all the time. But then they turn around and bill the client for every ridiculous item imaginable. It’s important to remember that it’s your job to get the best deal possible for anything you’re buying on their behalf. For example, we make a lot of media buys and purchase a huge quantity of print. Due to our extensive network of partnerships we’re able to negotiate the costs for these items as if the money were coming out of our own wallets. It’s only proper. If we can’t utilize our resources to save our clients money, we aren’t much of an agency.

8. Say Goodbye to Problem Clients

No matter how lucky you are, it’s inevitable that one day you’re going to work with a difficult customer. When faced with this issue, it’s important not to throw your hands up in the air and resign yourself to tolerate the loveless marriage you find yourself in. While challenging, it’s your responsibility to do all you can to manage a bad relationship. But with the worst of situations, no matter what you do you may not be able to resolve the problem(s). But that’s okay. It’s far from the end of the world. It’s best to say your goodbyes and move on. It will get better. It always does.

9. Walk in Your Client’s Shoes

Sometimes agency folks have very big egos. And there’s no room for this big-headed approach when working with clients. It’s important to stay grounded and humble. Throwing around a perceived sense of entitlement isn’t going to get you very far. Perhaps kicked off the business. There are likely many things about your client and their business that you’ll never fully understand, even if you walk in their shoes. It’s important you remain open to new knowledge. If you know everything already, the game is over. Fold up your tent and go home. Remain open, approachable and inquisitive, and sincerely show your interest in trying to understand your client’s concerns.

10. It’s a Small World After All, Treat it Like One

Overall, the marketing industry is a small, sometimes “incestuous” world, with agency personnel and client contacts switching jobs like they change their socks. In no time, your intern can become your client. Or your client can become your boss. Building respectful, professional relationships no matter which side of the desk you’re currently sitting on are crucial to developing successful partnerships.

It’s All About Doing What’s Right

To ensure you’re providing effective customer-oriented customer service, you just need to do one thing — do what’s right. Disregard that old adage that states “Good Guys Finish Last.” This isn’t true. It’s just something the bad guys say to make themselves feel better about what they do.

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2 Responses to “Ten Commandments for Effective Client Service for Business”

  1. Anthony Rivera says:

    Perhaps we’re just juvenile. :) Or living in the past. :) Or simply looking at the world through those proverbial rose-colored glasses. Or… But seriously…. :)

    Maybe I did learn something as a child that got stuck somewhere in my character and has traveled along with me for all these years. I simply believe that the best relationships, business included, should be built on a basic code of ethics wherein everyone should treat each other properly. And as an agency we strive very hard to live by this in all we do. Perhaps that doesn’t make the best business sense to some. But I can’t imagine running a business any other way. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

    Thanks much for your thoughts!

  2. Gregg V. says:

    What struck me as I read this post is how it reminded me about all those catch-phrases our parents uses to teach us right from wrong never go out of style. Treat others the way you want to be treated … honesty is always the best policy … own up to your mistakes – each of those are represented in this post.

    So that means if those were the rules we were supposed to live by as youngsters, why shouldn’t they be the ones we live by now, both professionally and personally?

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