I remember swaggering, Liam Gallagher-style, into agency life nearly 10 years ago for CE, from a career previously spent within in-house PR and marketing roles. Some might say I got a reality check.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it on this side of the fence and 99.9% of the people I’ve worked with over the last 10 years have been superstars… there’s a ‘but’ coming…
But, whilst the dream is that you’re co-creating with your clients, bringing your combined expertise together to create something beautiful, the reality can be somewhat different and certainly more difficult than I anticipated all that time ago.
So, here’s what I’ve learned over the last 10 years that really can make working with clients a hell of a lot easier, and – more often than not – client service magic.
Get to know the person you’re working with
I’m personally not a fan of the term ‘chemistry session’. Maybe they do work for some. For me, there are more authentic ways to get to know the person or people you’re about to spend quite a bit of time with.
Think about a workshop you could host that will benefit the work you’re about to embark on. We like to do this and find it works well as a ‘get to know you’ session as well. If this isn’t possible, a lunch or after-work drinks is also a nice touch. Then, ongoing, ensure you meet face-to-face as much as possible to build that relationship.
Work collaboratively in the planning stage
Are you ready for an anecdote?
I once had the toilet roll holder fitted to the wall on the wrong side of the toilet during some bathroom renovation work. I was furious. But the builder rightly pointed out that I hadn’t told him to put it on a particular side. Don’t worry, Bob and I are good friends now, but it’s a lesson on why collaboration and covering every detail is important in the planning stage.
Proactively manage expectations
Put simply, we don’t want any nasty surprises during the project. It’s important that everything is out in the open during the planning stage. Leave nothing to chance. If you know the foundations of a project, it then makes it easier to exceed expectations later.
Like the time Mike, the mechanic, fixed my car and then refused payment or like last weekend when Paul Weller joined Noel Gallagher on stage at a concert, leading to an impromptu performance of a Beatles track. Expectations exceeded.
We want our clients to feel how Mike and Noel made me feel.
Nip it in the bud
Ever had that temptation to see how things play out when your gut is telling you to jump on something and nip it in the bud?
It might be a creative direction that has taken a wrong turn, or a hint that the client thinks one thing and you think the other. If this was sport and you felt a twinge in your hammy, would you refuse to listen to your body and play on? The best athletes take no chances. You should be exactly the same with your client.
Learn to recover quickly
You are going to hear things you might not necessarily want to hear throughout your client relationship. The key is being able to recover quickly from this set-back and think about a resolution. This isn’t personal. Well, hopefully not. Hear your client out and empathise with them. The quicker you can recover, the quicker you can switch to productive and proactive actions.
Not everybody is a smiley, over-complimentary, ‘have a nice day’ type person. In fact, that person I’ve described is annoying me and I just invented them. You are you. Yes, certain areas of your character will evolve and improve if you surround yourself with good people (it’s called character building, I’ve heard), but you can do so and still be true to your personality.
The people with the best client relationships are those who are authentically themselves.
Choose the right clients
Choose clients that are the right fit for you. This might be the right fit based on your skillset, the right size or budget or, most importantly, share the same values. We used to target clients by sector, but we now choose them by whether or not they are looking to improve, have realistic expectations, are brave, challenge the status quo and are up for being partners and co-creators.
Look after yourself
Now, I’m certainly no expert in this field but from what I’ve read and what has made a difference to me, the following three things are crucial:
Sleep: Back to the athlete analogy: the best sports people sleep, a lot. LeBron James has twelve hours per night, and Usain Bolt has eight to ten hours. They do it because it aids recovery. Same applies to us.
Eat healthy: You’ll feel more energised, less stressed and more productive as a result. I promise.
Exercise: Exercise regularly and those natural endorphins will do you right. All contribute to more motivation and, I believe, a much more positive mental attitude.
If you’re looking to find out more about our approach to different areas of client services, digital marketing, and overall work-life balance, why not check out a few more of our blogs?