The best client service advice I ever received was given to me by a colleague 20 years my senior. I’ve always admired the quality and depth of his business relationships. His clients had a tendency to be demanding, but they were also his personal friends. One day, I asked him how he did it, and his answer stuck with me. So, what was it?
His advice: Always work to get your client personally promoted to a higher job level, study what their bosses or organization value and then help your client deliver impressive on-target results.
Now, at first glance, one might say that this concept is no different than delivering the scope of work on time, on budget and with good quality, but nothing could really be further from the “promotion theory.” Over the years, I’ve found that my clients get credit by solving issues or enhancing an image outside of the scope of work.
Finding the necessary characteristics that lend themselves to your client’s success takes work. You cannot initially be so direct, but by building a relationship and studying the way others get promoted, you can better understand the values of the individuals within the organization who are responsible for promoting.
For example, one project I worked on was relatively straightforward in scope, but I realized that my client’s boss wanted to be recognized in the industry for innovation. As a result, I wrote a technical paper on the project and convinced my client to jointly submit our paper into a professional conference. We then asked his boss to also co-author the piece, eventually convincing him to attend the conference and present it. It was no surprise that the boss thought it was a fantastic project and congratulated my client for a great piece of innovation. Now that’s getting your client promoted!
The final level in a great client relationship is when you become a trusted career advisor for your client for the rest of their career. Your relationship develops as you repeatedly aid them in obtaining promotions. They become your friend for life and will eventually reciprocate by helping you whenever they can. I don’t mean to infer that you are using or manipulating the relationship. Rather, over time you end up caring about the individual as you would a personal friend. You learn a lot about them–their fears, abilities, families and ambitions. It is a genuinely fun phase. Due to the amount of energy I have put into these relationships, I don’t feel that I am working for them, but rather, that I am working with them! The dynamic has changed from a business-only relationship to being long-term friends.
© 2017 Robert Uhler and THE UHLER GROUP. All rights reserved.