In previous articles on client service, I have talked about ‘reading a client office’ and ‘leaving something behind.’ Now I want to discuss perhaps the most important client interaction trait. You should treat the receptionist and administrative assistants of your key clients with recognition, grace and care. Having the administrative staff as an ally is enormously important in many facets.

It is not hard to get along well with administrative personnel—simply treat them as equals and interact with courtesy. Read their space also. Their space will tell you about their family, pets, background, interests, vacations and personality. Engage in discussion about something you notice, without prying. Some of the most common questions to engage include, “What a terrific looking set of kids! Are they yours? Are those photos recent?” or “It is really nice to put a face to an email address! How long have you been Ms. Smith’s assistant?”

The higher your positional level, the more impressed the administrative staff is that they are noticed and you treat them with dignity and care. I am not talking about portraying false sentiments; rather, I encourage you to express genuine interest, as they are an important part of your client’s team. In fact, often they are the gatekeepers to access.

The longer I know an administrative assistant, the more likely I am to bring them something on each visit. The items I select always reflect something about me or where I live. YES, you’ve got that right—something about me. I invite them to get to know me better. So, whether it is some chocolates from a specialty Boulder candy store I like; a book on one of my hobbies; or a bracelet that my daughter made, the item relates to me. These tokens show that I welcome these integral members of the client team to know me better. The act of being given a token gift and simply being remembered each time is particularly appreciated. The “major league” of administrative assistant care is being aware of their birthday and acknowledging it by card or email.

The rationale for knowing the staff is so obvious that I won’t go into detail, except in one area. When your client gets promoted or leaves, the remaining administrative assistant is essential for positive introduction and information about the new client replacement. My relationships with my clients’ administrative assistants have given me great introductions and endorsements with their bosses and client organizations. Most are smart, enjoyable people to know. They add to the client experience and get you into the conversation mode before seeing their boss!

© 2014 Robert Uhler and THE UHLER GROUP. All rights reserved.