The 'wow' factor: How to keep your clients happy

By Steve Kissing, APR

How do your clients feel about you? I mean really feel about you?

Steve Kissing, APR, is managing partner of Wordsworth Communications.

Steve Kissing, APR, is managing partner of Wordsworth Communications.

Whether you work at an agency with external clients or at an organization with internal ones, how your clients feel about you is critical. And while annual client “check-ins” or more formal reviews have a place, my agency has learned (the hard way) that a regular gauge of client happiness, or lack thereof, is best for all involved.

To accomplish this, we ask our account teams to regularly — meaning monthly, if not weekly — pause for a few minutes and take the “Meeting Reminder Test.” It’s not a written essay or a multiple-choice exam, but rather a thought experiment:

Imagine that your client is in the middle of writing an important email to her boss. She has lost track of time and what’s next on her schedule. Then, a meeting reminder pops up on her screen and she instantly recalls that her next meeting is with you. At that exact moment, what goes through her head? More specifically, what does she feel? Is she thrilled because working with you is focused, productive and upbeat? Is she feeling dread because you seem to complicate her life rather than make it easier? Is she wishing she had called in sick because your lack of knowledge about her needs and her industry is headache-inducing? You get the idea.

The ‘Meeting Reminder Test’

For this test to work, you and your team members have to be brutally honest with yourselves and each other. And you have to provide evidence for your point of view on just how happy the client is (or isn’t).

Very happy clients are easy to spot. So are the very angry ones. The real trick is identifying the client who seems happy and content but truly isn’t. This may be because he manages to hide his frustration well or he just doesn’t know how to tell you. (Or maybe he’s waiting for that annual check-in to share the bad news.)

But it’s more likely that you haven’t noticed because you’re not paying enough attention. The answer can be found in the results you’re delivering and his tone of voice, his word choices and, of course, his body language.

If you’re struggling to confidently answer the “Meeting Reminder Test,” then it’s most likely time to just ask your client: Are you happy with me and the service I’m providing? If she expresses any degree of unhappiness, you need to address it immediately. Meaning, before your next meeting reminder appears on her screen.

Tips for inspiring client joy

  • Strive for brevity. Keep meetings as short, yet productive, as possible. To this end, prepare agendas that are lean and mean. And stick to them.
  • Remember you’re the servant. They call it client service for a reason. You should be lightening your client’s workload, not adding to it.
  • Delight often. Regularly share something unexpected with your client. For example, go above and beyond on some assignments or surprise him with some bonus thinking.
  • Listen more, talk less. Resist the urge to talk a lot. The better you listen, the better the chances you’ll deliver thinking and executions that work, and you’ll wow.

This post originally appeared on PRSA’s blog, PR Tactics.