The Art of Client Service – 8 Things You Need to Know
Robert Solomon recently released the third edition of his book “The Art of Client Service.” I have read several industry books over the years, but strangely haven’t read this one. So, I picked it up and gave it a go.
The book is a “guide” on how to be a great account person in an advertising agency. It’s filled with things you should and should not do, how to act in certain situations, how to write scopes, proposals, conference reports, yada, yada, yada.
Here are my favorite quotes from the book – things no account person (junior or senior) should forget:
- “It seems so simple; why is it so hard?”
Account service has been called “the hardest job in an agency.” It’s a constant battle to do what’s right for the client, the agency, the creative team, the media department and the guy next door while staying on strategy, on budget, on time and coming up with the next great business-driving idea. It is, as the cover says, an art.
- “Many account people think the best way to help your colleagues is to be a resource to them. That’s important, but the best account people go beyond being the repository of market and competitive wisdom…They are a constant and contributing presence on every assignment.”
You’re a part of the team from start to finish. Contribute in any way you can – be a resource, offer feedback, offer assistance, buy lunch or dinner when your team is stuck cranking out work. Don’t skate at 5p.m. when the rest of your team is finishing up a presentation or finalizing work to be released. Be there.
- “Listen carefully for client concerns, even when they are not stated overtly. Especially when they are not stated overtly. Ask questions. Probe for answers. Draw the client out."
Manage your clients’ expectations from the outset. Do not take their feedback verbatim and hand it to the creative team. Do not just write down an issue brought up in a meeting and try to solve it later. Ask questions, get to the bottom of their concerns and make sure everyone is clear on where things are heading.
- “Live the client’s brand.”
Use the products, know the history and the culture, talk to customers and employees, read the press, follow them on social media, always think about ways to strengthen weaknesses, and capitalize on opportunities. Whether it’s a new client or a pitch situation, you don’t necessarily always need industry experience, but you do always need to steep yourself in the brand.
- “Client presentations are as important as new business presentations.”
Aka: Don’t get complacent. Write, rehearse, fine-tune, rehearse again.
- “Great work might make you uncomfortable…If the work is truly great, and right for your client, your job is to support it and to help your client see its potential and choose to buy it.”
If work is really great and on-strategy, don’t let anyone kill it before it gets presented to the client, even if there are reasons why they “think” the client won’t buy it. Fight for great work. The client may not buy it, but you should always fight to present it.
- “You provide air cover for everyone in the agency. If something goes wrong in media, in creative, in production, then it happened on your watch. You are responsible. Take ownership, and be prepared to take the heat from the client.”
No elaboration needed.
- “This is a book of rules, but an account executive works in a world of exceptions. No rule can accommodate every situation, and no list of rules is exhaustive. In the end, the only rule you can rely on is this: judgment rules.”
Use your best judgment, be honest, learn from your mistakes, accept responsibility and don’t make the same mistake twice. Every day brings a new challenge; accept them all, as they will only make you better.