Top tips for successful client relationships

It’s a well know mantra that “happy customers equal returning customers” and here at Oban International we are definitely not an exception to that rule.

Quite the contrary, we have a team dedicated to our client relationships.

Our strategy

Before arriving at Oban in January of last year I had worked for other agencies in a variety of client servicing roles. Those posts had given me complete visibility on the way many agencies operate in the UK.  When I joined Oban I discovered that the way we structure ourselves around client needs is unique.  Every client has a dedicated ‘Client Partner’ who has overall responsibility for the well-being of the client.  Standard stuff I hear you say… not so.   The client partner is the lead yes, but are they technically leading the account? No.  What this translates to and very successfully so, is having someone in a role that has the overriding visibility to look out for the client and put them first.  I’m not saying that ours is the only way, but it’s certainly the best model I’ve worked in my eight years of client servicing.

Making (and keeping) customers happy has benefits that stretch beyond satisfied patrons. Happy customers are more likely to share positive word of mouth and refer the service, product and business to friends, family and colleagues — and this grapevine effect is invaluable.

Again, I’m not breaking any new unknown territory, however it never fails to amaze me when I hear from friends or colleagues of this simply not happening across other agencies.  In fact, a very good friend of mind is the head of content at a large advertising agency in London.  Over lunch he was telling me how he’d recently recruited a partner agency for a short piece of work.  Technically he said they were good however communication was basically non-existent. With no one leading the account my friend was always in the dark with no clear line of communication.  Not surprisingly, after the project was finished they went their separate ways, my friend not wanting to retain their services for future work.

So, what exactly am I trying to say?  As an agency, our collective goal is to provide service excellence to our clients by understanding their needs and exceeding expectations with quality, professionalism and efficiency. We work hard to ensure that each client is happy.  After all, creating an established relationship of trust and collaboration will make the partnership and campaigns we run for clients a success.

My top tips for successful client relationships:

Understand client goals and business objectives: Nothing is more frustrating to a client than when they feel like their team doesn’t understand what they need to achieve. Clients need to know that they have a team working behind them so they can meet their goals internally.

They want a partner who is essentially an extension of their internal team.  As in any relationship, it’s important to keep the long-term picture in mind. Small hiccups are guaranteed to happen along the way, but they shouldn’t hugely impact your long-term goals.

Always be responsive: Since we aren’t able to sit in the same office as our clients, it’s important that we let them know they are top of mind. We try and make it a point to call our clients at least once per week to check in, as well as send update emails on ongoing work and status update calls. Responding to emails as quickly as possible is key, even if this is just a placeholder.

Pay attention to detail: Clients need to know they can trust us to put their best foot forward. Attention-to-detail in writing, verbal communications and reporting is essential to building a foundation of trust and comfort.

Manage expectations: The key to managing expectations is honesty.  Clients should be honest about what they expect for their budget spends, we must also be honest about what we’re able to deliver.  As a consultancy, it is our responsibility to advise organisations on how to best allocate budget —not to take on projects for the sake of our own bottom line.

Over-communicate: Great work with clients is always based on communication.  It’s easy to communicate the necessities: timelines, project deliverables and results. However, it’s equally important to communicate the non-immediate items, keeping the client apprised of ongoing efforts and sending frequent check-in and status emails.

The gold star of communication, of course, is addressing the clients’ needs before they know their own needs themselves. A way to do this is finding a solution to the client’s problem before a) it becomes a problem or b) before they ask you for a solution.

Thinking ahead and communicating those solutions are critical.

In short, it’s all about partnership.