About three months ago, I found myself with a few spare minutes one day and noticed on my calendar that it happened to be a former client and good friend’s birthday.
I sent Lauren a sincere, but quick note wishing her well and throwing the idea of a “birthday lunch” her way. The lunch never materialized, but I got a call giving me a full update on her company, all the changes in the marketing department and lots of conversation about the agency’s growth and expansion. The following week, I received an RFP to pitch their AOR business. The outcome? Too soon to tell, but I can’t help but wonder.
If you are on the account service side of your business, I'm writing this article with you specifically in mind.
Those Things We Call Clients
Thirty-some years ago I stumbled into the agency business. Never planned or studied to arrive here — dumb Irish luck just took control, and I fell in love with the industry, my job and the idea of pleasing people. This is the essence of my little “refresher.” Too often we forget that those irritating things we call clients are first and foremost — just people. At the beginning and end of every day, the vast majority want exactly what you and I want — to be loved, or at a minimum treated like someone cares about them.
Our clients are often stuck in the middle of business structures that don’t always hold their jobs, or them, in the highest esteem. We are in a unique position to become some of their favorite people — people they love seeing, talking to and working with. We are not their direct reports, their family or even their co-workers. Agency account service employees represent a team of professional counselors who have asked for, and been fortunate enough, to be given the responsibility of helping these people meet their business goals.
We’ve Forgotten the Basics
But how do we manage to screw up these great relationship opportunities? Why must our agencies constantly be looking to replace these lost accounts? (Okay, there are situations where other partners on our agency team don’t live up to their end of the deal, but that’s a separate issue.) I contend that account service people (that’s us gang!) have forgotten some of the basics of friendly service. It’s more than just answering their calls to you or sending their newest creative (hopefully not late) or reminding them that the finance department is looking for the last invoice. All of these are fine and necessary parts of the job, but they are not basics. The following list is just a taste of the list of some of my recommended “basics” to account service and in no special order:
- Do you know at least one important personal date (birthday, anniversary, date they were hired, etc.) for all of your clients? So easy… c’mon. Name one person who doesn’t like to get a card, a present or an acknowledgement that this is their “special” day.
- Do you have any idea if your client is married, dating or has children (how old, how many)? Most people like to talk about personal decisions they have made. You’ll know if someone is offended by your interest, but most of us love to share and talk about ourselves.
- How is their personal health? How about their family members? Whenever any of us is facing a health challenge, having people express a sincere concern can really make a lasting impression.
- What does your client do for pure relaxation or entertainment? Tennis or golf? Fishing or skiing? Bridge or chess? Movies or books? If I were in your shoes, I’d be interested in learning this part of my client’s life.
Now some of you are reading this and saying, “What the (blank) is with this guy?” I’m in account service to make a living, not to find a soul mate! Of course you are and lots of smarter people than I are writing interesting pieces about how to be more effective in your job using enhanced tools, improved processes and following certain advanced education opportunities. None of these are a bad idea for you to stay current on, but this is fundamental stuff that makes your relationship with your clients — remember they are people — more valuable to them. And here is the final perk — you may even discover that you like your work more, because of the people you work for and with.