Successful client service comes from a perfect mix of art and science. You need to know and understand the hard data about your client and their organization. Things such as industry, revenue, goals, mission, vision, and operations.
But then you also need to know the softer data. The interpersonal stuff that turns them from “clients” to humans. Because, as much as successful client service drive successful business outcomes, that is not a direct connection.
Successful client service builds relationships that support successful business outcomes. Relationships are the spoke that connects the hub to the rim. Without them, the wheel won’t work.
This means that you need to understand your clients as people, as much as you do as professional connections.
Let’s go through several questions you should be able to answer about your clients—both your agency clients and your in-house clients—from a more personal level.
Communications-based Client Service Questions
These questions are all about how your client communicates and prefers to receive information.
When and how do they like to work?
Though you generally want to set the expectation that client communication will be during normal business hours, you can generally find a groove of communication timing that fits best.
Do your clients work best in the morning or afternoon hours? When do they most like to meet vs. do deep work? When are they most productive?
We have clients who prefer to be greeted in the morning with an email of goals for the week/day and things we need from them in order to be successful. With people like that, we know we need to get our requests on their radar early and that level of organization and task management is helpful for them. But some clients hate that so we do something different.
Where do they go for information?
Which sources do they trust? We ask our clients to forward industry eNewsletters and articles of interest.
By doing so, we not only learn more about the industry or news we are covering, but obtain a better understanding of the types of sources they trust, who they look to for guidance, and how they like to receive and process information.
We also often set up a Pocket account for our clients. Then we both can view and suggest content to one another.
It’s always a great, efficient learning opportunity.
How do they prefer to be communicated with?
We try to guide clients to the communication channel we prefer during client onboarding, but the fact is all clients have their preferred communication methods.
For some it’s text, for some it’s Slack, and others prefer email. Some clients are better if all communication is kept to video conference or phone.
We recently onboarded a new client and I asked the CEO if there was a weekly meeting already in progress that I could attend so we could be most efficient. He said, “Nope. We just call one another when we need something.” So I do that, too…and I talk to him multiple times a day.
Figure out both how your client prefers to communicate and which channel works best for them. Then adjust accordingly.
Personality-based Client Service Questions
What are their other interests?
You must know more about your client than just their role in the organization, or other work-related factoids. You should know their other interests, what motivates them outside the office, what they love, what they hate, and the names of their pets (definitely know their pets) and their children.
Figure out who they are as people, who are part of their lives, and what type of lives they live outside the office. While I know some will disagree on this because it breaks the professional/personal line, we’ve found clients become humans that way.
(And so do you.)
And people do work with humans they like. So many of our clients become friends and that’s incredibly important to our success.
We look forward to client meetings because we get to hang out with a bunch of awesome people whom we like and help their businesses succeed. We even keep in touch with most of the clients who we no longer work with simply because we like them as people and care about their well-being.
To me, there is nothing better and that affects the way everyone works together and the motivation both sides have to succeed.
What type of sense of humor do they have?
You must understand your client’s sense of humor. What you can joke about and what you cannot. Because if your clients don’t get your jokes, they will come across as annoying, pointless, or (worst case scenario) offensive.
While you may be a very funny person, if your particular sense of humor falls flat with a certain client, adjust your style accordingly.
How do they keep organized?
Part of client service is project management and you will need them to do some things to help you be successful.
Learn how the client best keeps organized (or where they need help). Some clients do best if we send them a rundown of their needs every week.
Others are most productive if we nail them down during meetings and have them work through things right then and there.
Figure out what works best for your client.
What are their strengths and weaknesses?
And then help balance them out. You can build a team around their weaknesses so that the work that is challenging for them is done—and done well.
Perspective-based Client Service Questions
How do they make decisions?
Everyone makes decisions in different ways. Learn their unique decision-making processes and help them through them.
- Do they like to work through things verbally?
- Do they need stats and facts?
- What about emotional appeals? Case studies?
Think of this as your own buyer’s funnel and proceed accordingly.
What’s their background?
Background affects bias, decision-making, and everything about who they are and how they work. Make sure you know it.
We often ask our clients a set of questions that asks about their backgrounds. The direct intent is to give us information for earned media opportunities, but indirectly it gives us underlying information.
For instance, we have a client who is Latina and she has very specific experience with DEI. When we first started working with her, she wanted to focus on speaking engagements that would get her in front of her CEO peers to talk about business building. We quickly learned that she’d have far more success—and generate more leads—if she taught her peers how to successfully implement DEI programs inside their businesses.
This was a slight shift in her approach, but far more successful. There are lots of people who can speak to business building, but she’s one of the few who can speak to a massive trend—one that every business leader needs to learn how to do.
What are their biases?
Everyone has bias. You do. Your client does.
Earlier this year, we discussed the 14 cognitive biases that can affect the work that you do Cognitive biases affect the way people process information and make decisions.
These often represent the obstacles and opportunities we have to work with a client’s psychological tendencies. Your job is to understand their tendencies and then help make sure it doesn’t affect decisions and strategy.
What are their pet peeves?
Just the other day, I was scrolling through my social media feeds and I saw a post from a client that asked what people’s pet peeves are. He started with, “I hate the use of the word “utilize.” Me, too, brother, Me, too.
Because it’s a pet peeve of mine, as well, we don’t use it in our communications here, but it was good to know that it’s one of his pet peeves. I let the team who works with him here know that—and I shared the post with them so they could see what other people commented and how he responded.
You won’t all have clients who post those things on social media so just pay attention. You can certainly ask them what their pet peeves are, but you’ll definitely learn about them the more you work together.
Pay attention. Jot them down. Share with others. And make sure you don’t become a pet peeve.
Brainstorm Other Ways
If you’d like to talk through other ways to get to know your clients better or just brainstorm, in general, about your job, your role, and your work, join us in the Spin Sucks Community.
It’s a community full of crazy smart professionals. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s smart…and you might just learn a thing or two from your peers.