But I will not lose for even in defeat,
There’s a valuable lesson learned,
So it evens it up for me.
“Blueprint 2”, Jay Z
Client/Manager relations can be difficult to navigate. It’s in part why being a good management consultant requires more than just industry knowledge, but people knowledge as well. It’s also why many of the best management/consultant firms have liaisons/departments specifically charged with attracting, retaining and managing clients. Even in the best of times, client relations can be tough to manage because no matter how much money is being made and how great advice is being disseminated, we are still human beings and we inevitably complicate things with our human nature.
Recently I had a spat with a client, which isn’t abnormal because human beings don’t always agree. What was unusual for me was that during the disagreement I was accused of giving impersonal service, which in the moment I took personally. Exemplary customer service is, in part, what DE was founded upon. Every client who comes into the DE fold, whether through me or another member of the team, gets my personal contact information and will see me at an event (likely more) during the life of the agreement. I’ve been invited to client showcases, speaking engagements, weddings, birthdays and vice versa. We truly value the relationships we develop with our team and clients because we believe it’s a great way to do business. As such, to be called to the rug for being impersonal felt like a slap in the face.
A couple of weeks go by and the company was preparing to sign a new Small Business client. The prospective client and I had exchanged several calls, texts and emails and after agreeing to the deal points, we were ready to proceed with establishing a contractual relationship. The next step was to draft the contract and prepare the new client welcome package, all of which we send digitally for convenience and cost-savings. However, prior to pressing send, I reflected on the conversation with the client about not delivering the personal service I promised. Consequently, rather than send the agreement out for digital signatures, I opted to inquire about dropping the paperwork off in person so we could sign together. To my surprise, the prospective client loved the idea and invited me to her home the same day. I print the agreement, throw on a coat and run out the door to go over the agreement and sign in person. An hour or so later DE had a new client and our client had a new advocate to help them grow and protect their business.
Truthfully, I didn’t allocate an hour to sit and talk with the prospective client, but I’m glad I did because she seemed at ease talking to me about her family, her life, her ideas, how excited she was to get started and how nervous she was about signing the deal. She also told me that she was happy I took the time out of my schedule to see her.
The visit to that new client’s home was just as much about signing her as it was an attempt to make amends to a former client. In the 4 years we’ve been in business, we’ve done relatively well and have a pretty good routine about how we do business. Consequently, it’s easy to dismiss criticism of your processes and procedures, especially those you believe you do well. The lesson I took away from this is to never be so sure of yourself that you don’t take the time to examine what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and whether it’s coming off exactly as you intended it to. For me, I had no idea that some of the measures we implemented to help clients had turned one off. I also had no clue that my presence would mean as much as it did to a client who was always busy. It served as a small reminder that while grand gestures and overtures are great, at times it’s the little things that let people know you care. DE cares, I care and I never want to stray from that ideal. We understand we can’t and won’t always please everyone, but we certainly try. I can’t promise I can do every client signing in person, especially if they involve short notices, crossing large bodies of water, or venturing to different time zones. However, I can promise to always be present, open to criticism and willing to change. Thanks for the lesson!