Client relations vs. client expectations: Communication is key

After a multiyear career in recruitment advertising and communications, I’ve learned that understanding the needs and wants of clients is truly half the battle. As a recruitment advertising agency representative at TMP Worldwide, if I can’t clearly define what it is my client hopes to achieve, then I’m already behind the eight ball.

As a service provider it is my responsibility to read between the lines of what I might receive in an email or hear on a phone call, and truly drive toward the heart of what the words actually represent — the meaning behind the words.

Nobody is a mind reader, but clients would love for you to read their minds. And I would love for clients to read mine. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. We are just people, and people have to work at communicating with one another.

Mind reading aside, here are a few simple and realistic expectations most clients have.

n Listening.

Our first-grade teachers were smart; they taught us to be quiet and listen when they were talking. This is one of the most valuable lessons we can all learn. Clients want their partners to be good listeners, to take their words to heart and think critically about them before presuming to solve their problems without prior knowledge. Blindly throwing out products, services and solutions does nobody any good. Listen first, and then talk.

n Innovation.

Clients want information. Not only are they seeking what is new and what is next, they are seeking big ideas that will move them past the competition. They want to know what is only a fad and what has true staying power.

Clients nearly always want to know what is going on even if it is not a good fit for their needs and goals, or even if they do not have the resources to invest in an idea, product or service. Clients want their service providers to show a deep knowledge of the entire marketplace, not just what they are selling.

n Accuracy.

It nearly goes without saying, but clients desire quick and accurate service. They wish to have their expectations properly set and to have concise and free flowing communications with their vendors and agency partners.

n Insight.

Clients want to know what other companies are doing. One of the biggest values to partnering with a recruitment advertising agency is the collective knowledge that the agency brings to the table.

As an account director at TMP Worldwide, I can draw on a massive amount of intellectual capital to help guide my clients. I find that clients really desire and value this mile-high view of the marketplace and up-to-the-minute knowledge of trends and the competitive landscape. Clients desire partners that can provide cutting edge information, as well as historical experiences and broad knowledge.

n Understanding their business.

While clients shouldn’t have to spend half of their time with a service provider explaining every nuance of their company, they do expect you to have an in-depth knowledge of their business: how it works, what their goals are, how they’re perceived in the marketplace.

Understanding what makes a client’s company tick allows a service provider to more accurately guide the conversation. Going past the "X’s and O’s" and getting to know the culture and personality of the organization allow a service provider to uncover new needs and help clients solve real problems — that’s valuable to everybody.

At the beginning of most client relationships everyone is eager to hit the ground running. However, taking time to properly orient and educate is in the client’s best interest in the long run. This is where your client wants you to learn as much as you can and then continue learning into the future.

n Connecting the dots.

Clients expect you to connect the dots — to understand the interrelationships between people, projects, needs and goals. If your clients Susan and Dave work in separate states and only speak once every few months, then they’ll expect their agency or media partners to help them be their eyes and ears.

If Susan is doing something that could positively affect Dave, then it is to everybody’s benefit to help them connect and understand what the other is doing. This can save everybody time, effort, energy and money, while simultaneously deepening the relationship and providing great value.

n Service not sales.

Clients want to be helped, not sold. It is a simple concept. Your clients probably want to see the proof in the pudding long before they taste the pudding.

n Escape.

Everybody likes to have a good time, and the client-service provider relationship can be a lot of fun. Often the innovative and strategic work — learning new concepts and observing the marketplace — can be a vast departure from the daily grind of a client’s day-to-day work.

Making the work fun and valuable at the same time is truly something to aspire to.

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