A Secret About A World Business Leader And Client Service Excellence

A Secret About A World Business Leader And Client Service Excellence

I just heard an amazing story about one of the world’s most powerful business leaders and how he still understands one of the greatest traits of client service ninjas. It gave me a shiver. I’ll never forget it. Give it a read. It will stay with you forever.

I don’t believe clients every see us as ‘partners’. They see us as suppliers. Why? Because I know that if I stuff up twice in a row, maybe three times, I will be fired by my client. Partnerships are more resilient than that.

The trick is to become your client’s most valuable, indispensable supplier. You have to become a trusted advisor. And one critical trait of a trusted advisor is often overlooked. Here it is, and a great story of a business tycoon who still gets it right today. It’s a story only a few people know about. Now you do too – if you read on.

Remember the small people in the client organization.

The receptionist. Secretary. Tea trolley person. Dispatch person. Build ‘goodwill equity’ with the ‘smaller’ people on the client’s team. Here’s my guarantee. They will SAVE YOU when you stuff up, if they can… They’ll delete an email you sent by mistake to their boss, retrieve a document you sent and want to amend, give you a heads up when you need it. They never forget the kindness you show them, and will walk over hot coals when you need them to in return.

Here’s that great story I promised.

I met with a new colleague this week in Melbourne. He told me this. “In a previous life, I was seconded to the World Economic Forum to help shape the agenda for the World Business Leader’s Group, a meeting of the 40 most powerful business people in the world held as part of Davos.

“I was the only outsider in the room. As the note taker, I had to sit at the big square table with these 40 leaders so I could see who was talking. That first year, as we prepared to sit down, my heart sank as I was seized with fear. I suddenly realized whomever I sat next to would be disappointed. They’d want to be sitting next to Gates or the like, but instead would find themselves next to the junior hired help.

“I began to panic as I approached the table. Then, I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Who are you?” a voice asked. I explained my role. “Excellent. You come sit next to me.” And I did. And every year after that when I was still doing this role the same global business leader would seek me out before the meeting began, greet me warmly, and insist I sit next to him.

“And you know what, if he rang me today and asked me to walk over hot coals for him, I would- without hesitation.”

Michael Dell understood the power of looking after the little people. And he also clearly is a guy with a big heart.

Remember the little people. Put in the work to build those relationships and build goodwill equity. You don’t make friends in a crisis. You make them before you need their help. I call it ‘Building Goodwill Equity.” And when you do stuff up, they will save you. Promise.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Responses to A Secret About A World Business Leader And Client Service Excellence

  1. debra spykerman April 10, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    What a nice story Chris. You know, i learnt this a long long time ago when I was in my 20s at this wonderful point of my life at Burson-Marsteller – How important client servicing was and how you needed to treat everyone around you with respect and dignity – both on the client side as well as the various partners and not vendors we worked with to get the work done. It has definitely made a difference in my life.

    Thank you for sharing this with us.


    • Chris Savage April 10, 2013 at 11:20 am #

      Thanks Debra!

  2. Dan April 10, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    Great post Chris.

    Having worked my way up from the very bottom of the ladder (my first role was the post-boy in ) I’ve experienced first hand how some people will go out of their way to show respect to everyone within an organisation while sadly others don’t.

    Nearly 10 years on I can still tell you the names of the people who showed even the lowly tea boy respect & won’t be forgetting them any time soon.


    • Chris Savage April 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      Well said Dan!

  3. Rob Davidson April 10, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Great story Chris and so true. Whenever I visit a client with a consultant who is new to our business, one of the qualities I assess most is how they treat the ‘little people’ in the client’s office. Over the years I have observed a strong correlation between the quality of those interactions and the quality of the consultant.

    • Chris Savage April 10, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      Thanks Rob. Good observation. Chris

  4. Craigie C April 11, 2013 at 4:53 am #

    Now although I wholeheartedly concur with the sentiment, and go out of my way to show kindness to everyone I meet regardless of their position, my first thought is what a wily old shark Mr Dell is, and I certainly hope to be so too in a similar situation. By having the note taker sit next to one, you can make sure your own comments get priority and accuracy and who knows even influence/edit the comments of others!! haha!

    I’m just surprised the other leaders weren’t fighting over him!

    Love the posts, as always!!
    Thank you!!!

    • Chris Savage April 11, 2013 at 9:37 am #

      Good point!

    • Rob Harrison April 16, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

      Yes Craigie C,
      I have always sat next to the note taker they are after the only ones really listening.


  5. Justin Di Lollo April 22, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    This is a great story, Chris.

    I often tell my own colleagues about my engagement many years ago with a very large consulting company where I worked almost exclusively with Partners. There was a junior staffer (maybe three rungs down) who contacted me once. My lead partner said “don’t worry about that person, they shouldn’t speak to you”. But I went ahead and helped out the junior person.

    Next I heard of her, she’d left the company.

    A couple of months later, she called me from her new – and much more senior – position at a smaller consulting company. She went on to be a great client for many months. I doubt she’d have made that call if I had taken the partner’s advice and cut her loose!

    • Chris Savage April 22, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

      Thanks Justin- great story. Thanks for sharing. Chris

Leave a Reply