Listen To Their NEEDS, Not Their WANTS
As obvious as it may seem, listening to your clients is absolutely imperative to a successful relationship. We are client service professionals; we are responsible for recognizing and understanding our clients’ needs, even when they don’t directly communicate them.
Far too often in this industry, a lack of engagement by account managers leads to confusion between client and agency. As a result, the client is often the one left holding the short straw.
Let’s say you have a client who is very interested in the idea of making a Facebook fan page. They heard through the grape vine that Social Media is the new wave and that it will ultimately revolutionize the way they do business. You listen to their desire for a Facebook fan page, and act on it by setting up the page, without ever discussing the goals or details of managing it. A year after creating their fan page, you check on it to see that they have 7 fans and haven’t updated in 10 months. You listened to their wants and did exactly as they requested, but the client is still unhappy with the results and the blame may likely fall on your shoulders.
So where did the process go wrong? To be as succinct as possible, you listened to their WANTS, not their NEEDS. They wanted a Facebook fan page; they needed a place where they can interact and communicate with their loyal customers. Wants and needs are often not the same, and those client service professionals that can distinguish the difference between the two are a step ahead of the game.
Talk WITH Them, Not AT Them
Yes, we are in the market of people pleasing, but if you only provide your clients with what they want to hear, you are missing the opportunity to be more than just pleasing. You miss the opportunity to be Wonder Woman (or Superman), the hero of the office place. When your clients ask, “What do you think”, respond honestly as a professional. You are the expert in this relationship. The client rarely has the intimate knowledge of Internet best practices that you have as an online account executive.
Suppose you did listen to your client’s needs in the example raised above and the results of the fan page are still less than desirable. You realized that what they are asking for isn’t specifically a fan page, but rather, another means to talk with their customers. Regardless of this “Eureka!” you decide a Facebook fan page is the solution and ensure them that they will get tons of customer interaction. So what was the reason for the failure this time? As it turns out, the reason the Facebook fan page was not successful happens to be the same reason your client is unhappy with you. Both of you incorrectly talked AT your customers, not WITH them.
A Facebook fan page is essentially an advertisement. Just as you made the mistake when dealing with your client, a fan page is a business talking AT its customers. A great way to talk WITH your customers is to create a Facebook group. The intention of a Facebook group is to bring together individuals with mutual interests. These individuals naturally will care about your client’s business because they share the same interests. They will be more likely to share the information your client divulges and spread it amongst their network of friends. Your client’s customers also become the primary content creators. Had you talked with your client, and not at them, you would have learned that they don’t have the necessary resources to regularly create new content and update the page, a fact made evident from their 10 month hiatus on the fan page. This aspect makes a Facebook group especially appealing to your client. Now that you’ve identified the solution, you can wear your cape proudly, but don’t wander too far from the phone booth, as there is still one more step to ensure a healthy client relationship.
Follow Through. Kind of Like Your Golf Swing
The clever saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” does not apply in the client service’s world. You can listen to what your clients are saying (and not saying) all day long. You can respond with a well thought out response that inquisitively probes your clients’ needs. You can talk in depth with your customer about the implementation of your solution. But if you do not follow through, just ONCE, you lose it all.
FYI: following through is important everywhere. When swinging a golf club, you need to follow through; when getting a chic’s digits, it’s necessary to follow through (seriously). Because this action is instrumental for success universally, you can guarantee that it is equally as important when managing a client relationship. Ignoring this simple fact is the easiest and quickest way to a disgruntled client. So when you tell your client that you will get them the quote they requested– get it to them. If you tell your client that you’ll be available when they post their first blog – be available. If you tell them that you will give them your first born – well you get the point. Follow through!
In no way are the three steps above meant to be the cure-all for client services. They are merely the three things that you can do today to turn around that relationship or help solidify that new one.