Client service is one of the best and the most challenging parts of what we do.
Whether you work as a freelancer, soloprenuer, in an agency, or you are in-house, and your “client” is your leadership, board, or all the above—it isn’t easy.
This is when our jobs as communicators combine with our roles as psychologists. Because communications IS about relationships. They are inseparable. And our relationship with our client or leadership drives our success.
That said, we often make things more difficult than they need to be. Here are the five biggest myths about client service you need to stop telling yourself.
Client Service Myth #1: 24/7 Response Time
Clients don’t need to be responded to instantaneously, 24/7.
While what we do is essential, we aren’t a 911 call center.
What clients DO need is to understand:
- When you will and will not respond.
- What timeline they should expect for responses (for example: Within 24 hours)
- When you will not respond (After 6 pm EST and before 8 am EST Monday through Friday. Anytime on the weekend. Unless it’s an emergency).
- When a situation requires a unique communication or response time out of the norm (crisis, emergency, social media disaster)
- Then they need you to display those rules in action, consistently.
This means if you say you’ll respond to emails the same day. Respond the same day.
Or if you say you won’t respond after 6 pm, you don’t respond after 6 pm.
It means that they know what to expect and they can trust you to follow through.
When you set rules and expectations, most clients will not expect you to be an instant ticker tape of responses. They also don’t often want to be bombarded 24/7 with text, emails, and seemingly emergencies.
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with hundreds of different clients. All had different personalities, needs, goals. And only once have I experienced a client who had a problem with me not responding 24/7 WHEN I set expectations clearly and followed through with consistent action.
In almost all cases, when we end up on this response treadmill, it’s because we’ve made it happen.
So stop. And realize that when you “make an exception,” to your rules and tell yourself it’s because you are offering better client service, you are doing the opposite.
You create an inconsistency. An action which doesn’t align with the set-out expectation. By default, you set a new rule. So the client WON’T understand the next time you decide to follow the old one.
Client Service Myth #2: Clients Only Want Media Relations
Clients want to be successful.
While you sometimes will get those business owners who value their ego over the success of their own business, for the most part, when a client comes to you their goal is to grow their business and revenue in some way.
They might come to you for media relations only because for many people that’s what “PR” is.
A prospect comes to you, looking for an expert. As that expert, if you don’t explain to them the other opportunities and evaluate how to best contribute to the success of their business, then the onus is on you.
If a client comes to you and says, they want media relations work, dig deeper and evaluate their business goals. Maybe media relations does make sense (as part of an integrated program), but perhaps it doesn’t. Remember, media relations is a tactic, NOT a strategy.
Be the expert and evaluate what the best strategy is to help the client reach their goals.
Client Service Myth #3: The Client is Always Right
Like all relationships, client service is a collaboration. You bring insight and expertise in communications. The client brings an intimate knowledge about their business and goals.
You work together to combine the two.
There will be times you disagree.
There will be times that the client wants to do something which you feel will not move them closer to their goals.
It’s your responsibility to lead a communications strategy which aligns with their outlined business goals.
It’s not your responsibility to be a yes-man and do whatever they say. In fact, the latter is the irresponsible choice.
When a client comes to you with a request you don’t agree with you need to ask questions and have a productive discussion around the issue. If you still don’t agree, you need to educate the client as to why this tactic or strategy does not align with their goals.
These are often not easy discussions to have. It’s not easy to disagree with a client and work through that confrontation.
But you know what also is not easy? Trying to explain why you aren’t hitting your goals.
No one ever said client service is easy. Often you choose which hard thing you’d rather do.
Bring problems to clients.
Tell them when they are doing something that hurts their goals.
Tell them no.
Be transparent in areas where the organization needs to improve.
And do so in a solution-minded way.
Clients are always more willing to take feedback and pushback when it’s solution-based vs. problem-based. Aren’t you?
Frame all feedback in a solution-based manner and work with the client to help them understand why they aren’t right.
Yout Most Hated Client Service Myths
Now it’s your turn!
Which client service myths do you see otherwise smart, savvy communications professionals fall for daily?
Which myths do you wish you had busted when you first started out?