How Leaner Teams Can Give Five-Star Client Service
“Our budgets have shrunk. We’ve got leaner teams than before. Our clients are more demanding than ever. So how can we possibly provide five-star client service?” It’s a lament I’m hearing more and more of late, from agencies of all sizes.
I certainly empathize with this perspective, but the reality is that if a public relations agency wants to benefit from the economic recovery–which recent industry projections is indeed underway– consistently providing five-star client service isn’t an option. It’s one of the most important steps an agency can take to hold on to its accounts and grow its business. And a reputation for providing this level of service will help get your firm on more “short lists.”
So what can agency leaders do to provide this service, despite the aforementioned challenges? Here are five suggestions:
1. Accept: Accept that providing consistent five-star service isn’t optional, but must be a key focus of agency leadership, taking up the right amount of senior level attention, think-time and bandwidth. And what’s the right level? Just ask your clients what level of service your agency is providing, if it’s consistent and if they would recommend your agency without hesitation. Their feedback will help you determine if you need to dial up client service. PS: You probably do.
2. Spread the Understanding: Help your entire team understand that in today’s environment, merely doing excellent work simply isn’t enough. In fact, though we don’t always want to admit it, there are other firms out there who may be as strategic, as creative, and as able to execute with excellence as we are. Client satisfaction, retention, expansion and referrals to others, come from consistently surprising and delighting our clients, from making them feel they’re our only, or most important client,
3. Create an Agency-Wide Client-Service Mentality. Make improved client reviews, and specifically your client service rankings, an agency-wide goal. If you’re the agency leader, share the specific actions you’ll be taking to contribute to this achievement. Make sure that the evaluation/review of every staffer–including the receptionist and admin. staff–includes client service-related feedback, goals and recommended actions.
4. Share the Responsibility, Share the Wealth, Share the Stories: Communicate that client service is every staffer’s priority. Reward those who help the agency achieve its client service goals, via salary increases, promotions (if appropriate) and spot bonuses. Publicly thank those staffers who’ve contributed, and share their client service “case studies.”
5. Take the Client’s Pulse More Frequently: It’s tempting to spend less time with the client asking about agency performance, for fear that we’ll hear something negative. But it’s more important than ever to do so, and with greater frequency. Taking the plunge helps you to determine client service shortfalls while they’re simmering but not yet at a full boil, and therefore, much easier to fix. In addition, meeting with the client on this subject more frequently will help you hear what the agency is doing right, so you can encourage more of it.
In an upcoming post: What a team members can do to provide enhanced client service, despite smaller teams.