It’s Not Business, It’s Personal

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In the client service business, it’s easy to forget that clients are… well… people.

I should begin by saying – I am an advocate for some division between work and pleasure.  That said, it’s important to remember that even in business we’re interacting with people.  We can kid ourselves all we want about the division between personal and business interactions.  What works in the end is what works in our personal lives:  communication, empathy, and affability.

Here are the top five client service mistakes that I believe are primarily rooted in the faulty premise that business somehow changes the rules of human interaction.

1. Relying on contracts to communicate for you.

Now I’m not saying that contracts aren’t important.  You can read more about that here.  However, contracts only help protect you once (if?) things go bad.  Then the lawyers get involved.  Human, verbal communication is the only true way to help a client understand how the relationship will work, and helps to head off issues before they become a risk to the relationship.

2. Using conference calls and email as the only forms of communication.

Think about the way you interact with your friends.  If you only spoke when other friends were around, or over email, you would certainly be less intimate.  With your clients, it’s the same scenario.  Of course, conference calls are a necessary evil, and emails are incredibly convenient and provide instant documentation.  Just don’t forget that one-on-one calls allow you to really get to know your client contact, and that relationship will be invaluable.

3. Not making their problems, your problems.

In a friendship, we always help, or at least attempt to help friends solve their problems.  In business, we all too often shirk that same responsibility.  Don’t misunderstand this to mean that we should nose into a client’s personal life.  All I’m saying is, if they’re struggling with getting management to understand the importance of their initiative, for example, think about how you can help.  In the end if they’re not successful, your scope isn’t getting signed.  If sending your top pitch person in to help plead the case could seal the deal, go for it.

4. Being all business, all the time.

Professionalism is critical in the client service business, and with experience, we all learn where the proverbial “line” is in dealing with different personality types.  Where it can go wrong though, is when we don’t show a little of our own personality.  You’re not a robot, and chances are, neither is your client.  Making your interactions personable makes them more pleasant, and you won’t become that dreaded obligatory call once a week.

5. Not being transparent.

If your friends don’t know your faults, they probably don’t know you very well.  There is something endearing about understanding someone’s vulnerabilities.  While this can be touchier in business, being candid about your strengths and weaknesses will not only ensure your client is making the best use of your agency’s skill set, but they’ll trust you more for the honesty.

Are there others?  I’m sure.  In hindsight, some of these could easily apply to the interactions we have with our coworkers as well.  The takeaway is, a lack of humanity could hurt your business.

Image Credit: Chill Out Point