The art of client servicing – Home of Performance’s John von Hofsten

“The day you start signing clients is the same day you start losing them!!” – Don Draper

This looks like a rhetorical statement. The kind where one might tend to overlook it as a catchy dialogue of the main protagonist of a cult TV series that inspired millions of  marketers around the world but it’s not. It, in fact, captures the essence of client servicing most succinctly.

If you are familiar with the genius of Don Draper, the maverick ad man from Mad Men, a fictional show set in the 1960s about the advertising agencies of Madison Avenue, New York City, you would be able to hear the statement with effect.

When you finally get that contract signed after a long-drawn pitch and a series of discussions that involved multiple teams from both sides, you might think that it’s smooth sailing thereafter. Well, why wouldn’t you? You have a capable team of experts working on the project, and a seamless onboarding process to ensure everyone has everything they need to do a great job. But is it enough? Not really.

Think like your client and its customer

The way we communicate, set expectations, and deliver results has changed rapidly over the last 10 years and continues to evolve. Today clients expect to see tangible results very quickly, and there is far less room for edits or errors. This demand for a new near-perfect approach is the client’s right and should be acknowledged. The key to achieving this is to recognise and fulfill the ‘need behind the need’. 

At Home of Performance, we see that the first three months of any relationship are the most critical. So we build customised success roadmaps that address the client’s requirement in a way that best suits their customers. We use a sprint onboarding method that is phased between setting internal and external expectations and milestones. Our teams are involved from the get-go in all client conversations to absorb as much information as possible about them and inculcate immense clarity about target buyer personas.

Our client communication is dynamic and happens across multiple channels. We take it where the client is – Slack, Asana, WhatsApp, Emails, Video calls, and of course in-person.

We don’t hesitate to ask the right questions at the right time to develop a deeper understanding of how the client functions and how its target audience thinks and behaves.

Your team deserves the best ‘client service’

What Sir Richard Branson said about taking care of your team first is still very true today. In the Middle East, it’s very common to see the opposite when it comes to management. I believe that you will get the customer service you deserve from your team and that the output from your colleagues, stands in direct correlation with how you treat them yourself. At the end of the day, client servicing is very simple. Show respect in all aspects of your communication, listen, and try to find situations where everyone is a winner. From an agency perspective, it can be challenging when you need to adhere to a defined scope, a scope that many times can be very fluid but staying true to the ‘employee first’ principle is hugely rewarding.

However, when it comes to client or customer support, I am yet to come across anything like Hubspot. This is a massive company, that still makes its smaller clients feel like they matter, is big on transparency, and connects with each customer on a human level. The organisation’s employees are its best brand ambassadors. A testimony to a very supportive and encouraging work culture.

Bring your A-game to a crisis and then some

For my fellow agency people, crisis management is no longer a dreary term. Sometimes it feels like we are more firemen/women than anybody else as we are often putting out fires or checking for leaks than reveling in a job well done. 

To be able to avoid difficult situations and hit panic mode, the first step is to always listen better, understand clearer and discover the real reason behind the said ‘crisis’. This way you will be able to offer a defining solution. 

The second step is to take responsibility to solve things and have the authority and credibility of getting things quickly under control and presenting an actionable way forward.

Once you have successfully resolved an issue or averted a crisis, the third step is to reflect on why it occurred in the first place and chart out scenarios to avoid it from repeating or more realistically, plan for better outcomes.

In my experience, the key to developing a long-standing and fruitful agency-client relationship is to treat them as your success partners and in turn, you will become theirs. The client’s business will keep evolving and as an agency, it is our responsibility to anticipate this to remain one step ahead, always. 

At Home of Performance, our approach is to earn the valued trust of our partners so they see us as their own marketing team that just works from a different office. This is the level of ease, transparency, and diligence we work with to make a real difference.

By John von Hofsten, founder and MD, Home of Performance