Saturday, August 15, 2009

Client Service or Client Relationships?

I was struck by two posts recently that make me feel I (we) have this whole client service terminology all wrong. The first post was from Terry Morawski where he talks about the arc of his relationship with social media. He realizes now of course that social media is A tool, not necessarily THE tool when it comes to marketing communication because it's the relationship, not the tools that matter most. Edward Boches also wrote a terrific post about three new business presentations delivered by Mullen interns that showed incredible promise - not just for their social media prowess, but more for their understanding of building relationships and employing all of today's tools to do so.

Let me add that last week I read Marshall Goldsmith's book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There - a fitting title included in my Carousel of Recommended Books. Marshall talked about the need for many leaders to improve their listening skills, and while he offers some great advice, at the end of the day I thought, you'll never be a good listener unless you care enough about what the other person is saying to pay attention. I believe the model for client service excellence is similar.

The idea that we "service" our clients and, by doing it well, hope to build a relationship is backwards, and the young people coming up in the world today are about to prove it. Their perspective will offer us a model for building great relationships on multiple levels and doing right by the people with whom we do business - ensuring this notion of customer service excellence.

You won't offer truly excellent client service unless you care, and you won't care enough unless you have a strong relationship with your client and a true passion for their business. Build a relationship to improve service, not the other way around.

*Image from


  1. Joan Koerber-WalkerAugust 15, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    Leo - Great post and I could not agree more. Having a relationship with your customers, asking questions, listening to the answers, and understanding what they want or need is what enables us to deliver great client service.

    In a relationship it is about the other person - not you. In great client or employee relationships, it's about what they need, not always about what you want to provide. When you deliver, that is GREAT service.

  2. It reminds me of Toni Louw's video where he offers his approach to presentation training. Toni claims that he doesn't teach techniques such as voice modulation and making eye contact, etc., he teaches people to communicate. Once they learn that, then they modulate their voice and make eye contact with their audience. We can give all the client service tips in the world, but unless people can build multi-dimensional relationships with their clients, their service will never be truly great, nor sustainable.

    Recent blog:=- Client Service or Client Relationships?

  3. Relationships are everything. Too bad in our short term results mentality they're getting harder and harder to develop. The real ones Clow/Jobs, Wieden/Knight pay off huge.

  4. You bring up an excellent point regarding time-frame. I guess it just means we have to choose clients wisely and focus on building relationships quickly and more skillfully. If real relationship building starts at out as a true priority, it's an excellent start. But let's face it, not every relationship matures to the level as those you reference either. If it were easy, anybody could do it ;-)

    Recent blog:=- Client Service or Client Relationships?

  5. Interesting post Leo.

    I don't think that the terminology (i.e. service/relationship) should matter. Unfortunately, it does and it matters a LOT.

    I would go even further, the relationship does NOT start at the sale. It starts with the first interaction.

    One example is a coffee shop that I go to. I started a new position in late March. In mid-April one morning I was hungry and decided to go to one of the coffee shops on the ground floor. I put in my order that came out to 2.00$ and went to pay with a debit card. Oops! They don't take debit cards for orders less than 5.00$. They could have taken the muffin back or said order something else, but no, the lady says "Just pay for it next time" Wow! This was the first time I went there. What did I do, I went to an ATM at lunch and stopped to pay her and she was surprised (and happy); I don't think that she really expected me to return...

    Why was this experience important? Do you really think that I bothered to try any of the other shops? This place was willing to take a loss rather than annoy or P#$$ off a potential customer. And, now I go there a few times a week and always have cash on hand.

    Trade (business) has always been a social activity and it hasn't always been about making a profit.It started as people specialising in a specific activity and doing it for other people in exchange for something you don't do well.

    The idea of making a profit came about much later and is an arbitrary assignation of the value of some types of work over others.

    Ouf! I didn't expect this comment to go off like this...

    Some food for thought, maybe I'll develop this idea further...


    Recent undefined:=-



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