As an agency-based public relations professional, client service is embedded in my being. Without question, securing stellar results for a client is vital. Unequivocally, delivering on ROI is a must. But underpinning all this, providing exceptional service is that extra-special ingredient which keeps the relationship between a business and its PR agency healthy and thriving.
I’ve recently been in a situation – unrelated to PR – where it was I who was the client. I had two service providers I’d appointed to help me navigate some personal business. Regrettably, at various points I experienced disappointments and frustrations. At each of these points I asked myself: “Am I being unreasonable? Am I expecting too much as a client?” But each time the answer was: “No; I’d never manage my clients in this way.”
So what constitutes outstanding client service?
Within public relations, first there is the bread and butter that should be delivered as a given. We are appointed by our clients to roll out strategic PR programmes that deliver against the clients’ business objectives. We are a resource, providing consultancy and expertise; and we are accountable, driving the PR programme when in-house teams are stretched too thinly to take the lead.
For me however, it’s the extra touches and flourishes I bring to my accounts that really add value to clients and inject joy into my day-to-day work. Sounds soppy? Well maybe, but for a dedicated, enthusiastic and fun-loving PR pro, that’s just me – and it’s genuinely how I approach my work.
Positioning myself as an extension of their team, getting immersed in a client’s business – from its mission and objectives, through to its ethos and values – is compelling and helps me beyond measure to serve as that trusted and valued partner, tailoring PR activity that is perfectly aligned to their requirements.
I’m the sort of person who cares what people think. As such, I want my clients to be delighted with the work I deliver; chiefly because it makes their life easier. I also want them to be rapturous thanks to high levels of bubbling PR activity which not only garner great results, but also help to make them look good within their organisation. Am I setting the bar too high for myself?!
I prefer being personable with clients, making a mental note of their holidays, work anniversaries or life events, being mindful to check in – perhaps even over a cuppa, separate to any PR agenda – and see how things in general are going. There is no better reward than, when situations change and a client contact moves on to pastures new, a relationship has been forged that will last for years to come.
And then of course there’s the obvious. I’m a believer in regular face-to-face contact where client schedules allow and I’m on the end of the phone when needed, always prioritising returning a missed call. My client radar is on no matter the day or hour, subliminally foraging for new campaign hooks, creative ideas and news-jacking opportunities.
The frustrations I felt recently as a client stemmed mainly from the following:-
- Minimal personal contact – it was difficult to reach my account managers in person on the phone and brief, offhand emails were their mode of communication, leading me to surmise that they must have more valued clients they would rather be attending to
- A lack of regular updates – I always had to chase for status and progress reports, making me feel as if nothing or very little had been progressed since any previous contact, and that it was down to me to take the reins and lead the charge
- Having to do the work myself – there were numerous times where I had to step into my service providers’ shoes, (chasing suppliers, for example) in order to propel matters forward
So, my ‘PRromise’ to my clients is as follows:-
- I promise to be present, attentive and available, always maintaining a clear dialogue with you
- I promise to implement structured work plans with clear deliverables, managing expectations about timescales, preventing you from ever having to chase for an update
- I promise to work ethically, transparently and smartly, delivering at the very least what has been agreed – but ever aiming to exceed expectations
Amy Ahmed-Dolphin is an Account Director at Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, social media and internal communications. For further information email email@example.com or contact us here.