All of us at certain points are customers and therefore we all understand in one way or another what it’s like to be in the shoes of the client.
You’ll have some understanding of what it’s like when you need someone else to sort something out for you because you can’t do it yourself. And if the nature of this is urgent, then you’ll also understand what it’s like to be under pressure.
This is always worth bearing in mind as an account manager as it will help you empathise with your client. This is one of the top 10 customer service skills you need to master.
If you’re not empathising with your client’s situation, the client will pick up on it. The “it’s not my problem” attitude is not what the client wants to hear when things are getting sticky.
Make the client feel that what they are telling you is as important to you as it is to them. Repeat back their needs. Send a contact report capturing the conversation so that there is no room for misinterpretation.
2. Ask the right questions
Always ask the client good, intelligent, thoughtful questions about their needs on the project/campaign, on their business and on what’s important to them. This will make you stand out from your competition and allow you to sell more.
It’s always tempting to brag about how much you know and how many ideas you have. However counterintuitive this is, just listen. You cannot understand your client unless you listen to what they are saying. ‘Hearing’ is not listening. Listen, respond to what your client has just said and then ask another question relevant to the first one.
4. Follow up
It’s good old fashion manners that wins the day every time. Follow up follow up follow up. After a call send a note summarising what you’ve agreed for the client’s approval. After a meeting, send a note thanking the client and attach a contact report with actions, timings and deadlines. Again, ask for any feedback before progressing.
Follow up also means doing what you say you’re going to do. The quickest way to lose a client’s trust and confidence is not to do what you say you will do.
5. Understand the client’s business
Immerse yourself in the client’s world. Their share price, their sales targets, their priorities and how their success is measured. If you’re not sure ask questions.
6. Know your stuff
Goes without saying but the client is coming to the agency for their expertise in communications strategy and to find the best way to get their message heard by the right audience. If you don’t know exactly what your agency offers, then make it your mission to find out. Similarly, make sure you understand what your competitors are up to. What kinds of strategies are they employing for their customers? The more you can provide a good level of expertise and draw on your previous experience, the better.
7. Know how to sell
One thing is looking after the client’s business, another is trying to ensure you actively look for opportunities to offer them more services. If you’re unfamiliar with up-selling and cross selling, ask your agency for training.
You may even have targets to reach in which case if you are unfamiliar with sales techniques learn some fast! The Sandler Institute is a good place to start.
8. Ask for feedback
Don’t wait until the half yearly formal evaluation of the agency to ask your client for feedback. “How are we doing?”, “What can I do to improve the relationship between you and the agency?”, “Is there anything we’ve missed?”. Ask for time to sit down and chat just about the relationship rather than specific projects. You’ll be amazed at how much the client will be willing to share.
Of course, to point 3 above, make sure you listen and then follow up to address any issues.
9. Keep the client informed
Tell them what you’re going to do, tell them when you’ve done it and then tell them what happens next. “Managing the client’s expectations” is a well used phrase but a pertinent one. Always tell the client what’s happening. If you go quiet, often the client thinks you’re not doing anything. Even if it means a short daily email just letting them know progress of a project, whatever your client needs to ensure they know you are on top of things.
10. Under promise and over deliver
Don’t fall into the trap of promising the earth and then delivering nothing. Better to say you’ll deliver Tuesday, then to call them on Monday and say you’ve managed to speed things along and have them ready for Monday (should they choose) than to promise it Tuesday and not get it there until Wednesday morning. The power of a few hours in terms of perception is huge!
What other customer service skills do you think are essential for an agency account handler? Please comment in the box below.