How do you surpass client satisfaction to achieve true client delight? PCI President and CEO Robert W. Sprague shares some clues to watch out for.
What really keeps clients coming back? Great work is important, certainly. But what really makes the difference is the quality of the relationship that your agency builds with its key customers. At PCI we're fortunate enough to have many relationships that go far beyond client satisfaction. We call it "client delight."
Too many agency people think their work will speak for itself. They put so much focus on the creative, or the strategy, that the delivery is indifferent or sloppy. But few clients have the sophistication to evaluate their marketing or advertising for quality or effectiveness. They judge you, and remember you, on the basis of service.
How do you know? How can you be sure you're building a relationship that will last, and survive the inevitable bumps in the road? I've learned to listen for clues from clients, and to place value on the attitudes and capabilities that generate these "client delightful" expressions. Notice how little each of these has to do with the actual work of marketing and advertising, and how much they have to do with trust and confidence.
"With you, I don't have to worry…" In the end, the client will apply a simple calculus to your work: did you take burdens off their shoulders, or put more on? Could they count on you to deliver what you promised? Do you represent a net reduction, or a net increase, in the amount of work they have to do? Some clients like to micromanage, some like to be hands-off. But no clients like to feel that their agency is more trouble than it is worth.
"I need you to work your magic…" What we do should have an element of mystery or magic to it. We should be solving problems and pulling off impossible feats, without ever letting the client see what's going on behind the curtain. This is the client admitting that he or she doesn't know how we do what we do, and that our results both surprise and delight them on a regular basis.
"We couldn't do it without you…" Congratulations — if you're hearing this you have become an indispensable member of the client's team. This is the client's acknowledgement that you are providing unique value — and unique value, by definition, cannot be replaced.
"You're the fun part of my job…" What we do IS fun — at least in comparison to what most clients have to put up with day by day. We can help that fun along by staying positive, keeping it light, not taking ourselves too seriously. When the client looks forward to your meetings as a highlight of their day, there is a much better chance of your relationship continuing indefinitely.
"You come up with the best ideas…" Are you solving problems for your client? Or are you creating problems? Emotional intelligence — the ability to listen, empathize and feed back in a supportive fashion — is often more important than the actual ideas and strategies you suggest. And your counsel often goes far beyond the immediate marketing and advertising challenges you're hired to address.
"You make me look good…" Bingo. Your work has attracted favorable attention, and you have been a good enough partner to let your client take at least partial credit. You are approaching the holy grail: getting your client promoted.
Want to hear more secrets to client success from Robert W. Sprague? Check out his upcoming talk with Karl Sakas at ADWKDC: Creating Wins for Both Client and Agency.