Tag Archives | client relationships

The Ice Pick, The Taxi and Getting Wet- A Lesson In Outstanding Client Service

We have just trained 1,000 of our people across Australia on how to deliver outstanding client service. Suddenly, I was reminded why this is insanely valuable – and by getting it wrong, we (and you) won’t survive in business. Read on or risk oblivion. Here’s why.

CEO Mike, Director Dave and I are obsessed with the critical importance of delivering outstanding service to our clients. So we designed a brilliant five hour training session- filled with stories of getting it wrong, and getting it right. It’s time consuming to roll out, as we lead the sessions 100% ourselves. We do occasionally question: “Is this a ‘nice to do’, or is it a critical imperative, and right for us to be devoting so much time to?”

Yesterday I got reassurance. It’s mission critical. Here’s why. And it relates perfectly to what Harold Burson told me 30 years ago, and there’s a great story to prove the point:

A Very Wise Man Told Me This- It’s A Truth About Business And Life

David Gonski is a fixture in the Top 10 Most Influential People in Australia annual rankings. He’s on multiple boards, is much sought after as an advisor and is generally considered a very wise man. So when he laughed out loud at something I’d said, and then gave me a one sentence piece of advice, I listened. It’s a gem. This is what he said.

Let me be clear. I don’t know David Gonski. But I did manage to get a meeting with him once, where we sought his support in referring clients to our fledgling business (and to his credit and our deep gratitude, he did do exactly that. That major client is now a dear friend and a Possums reader from his bastide in Provence).

A corporate shareholder in my business at that time had the year prior purchased a competitor of ours, and I was still upset about it, believing that this broke an agreement I had had with the then CEO. I told Gonski about this. He laughed, and then gave the advice that stings still today. He said:

How My SAAB Car Teaches Us A Critical Lesson In Business- And In Life

My car buff mates ridicule me because – in 25 years- I have only ever owned Saab cars. I’ve had seven of them. Now that Saab has gone bust, they laugh even louder. But little do they know that the essence of Saab, and why I buy them, has also taught me the most critical ‘must have’ to survive in business. If you don’t do this, you will fail- guaranteed.

Last night at dinner in a brightly lit Japanese restaurant in Jakarta, my colleague Mike B wept with tears of laughter.

“What are you going to do now that Saab has gone out of business?! No more spare parts for you…hahahaha!” He rubbed it in by telling me the TV car show ‘Top Gear’ had done a great segment on the demise of Saab, and he’d send me the link. Watching it an hour later, I suddenly realized why I always bought Saabs, and why that very same reason had underpinned my ability to keep surviving in business. If you don’t have this in your armory, beware. You WILL come a cropper.

Why Coming Second Will Help Ensure You Win- Every Time

I have always believed to succeed in business, ‘being first’ would be a bloody good place to start. But I was wrong. The fact is, coming second, or even third, is critical to succeeding in business and often, in life. Here’s why.

Malcolm Gladwell spoke about it at the Cannes Creativity Festival in June 2011: how innovators often are not the ones who end up commercializing their innovations. Rather, someone else sees it, tweaks it, refines it, popularizes it, and makes a fortune out of it. Think “Steve Jobs , the mouse, icons and stealing Xerox’s great ideas…” Jobs stole the ideas and made them great. He made a fortune out of this.

I liked the concept, but did not really understand the point, until I read this great quote from an Australian rugby union legend, John Eales, who said:

The biggest cock up I ever made in business – Be warned!

I still shudder when I think about how incredibly stupid I was when I made the biggest stuff up of my career. And then, 18 years later, I did it again! Whatever you do- do not make this mistake with your clients. Ever!

It was 1992. Grant was the most relentless and eager client I ever worked with. He was the marketing manager for a Unilever margarine, Becel. He lived and breathed the product. And as a good client guy and agency man, so did I. We got on famously. We laughed a lot. And were doing great work together.

Then I invited Grant and his wife to my home for dinner. My girlfriend kindly offered to cook. She worked out the menu, and bought the supplies. Grant and his wife arrived. Hugs all round. And the first thing Grant then did? He walked straight over to my fridge. Opened the door. Excitedly looked inside. And then… his face drained of colour. He literally withdrew in horror. Here’s why.

The holy grail of consulting – do this and triumph

“We have to become a partner with our clients.” Dream on, says I. In 27 years working on clients, not one has ever viewed me as a partner: always as a supplier. Here’s why, and here’s how to become an indispensable supplier.

Becoming ‘partners with clients’ gets talked about a lot in agency world, but it has never happened to me. We’ve had deep, enduring client relationships, but none crossed the line to true partnership. Why do I say that? I always knew that if we stuffed up two times in a row (maybe three at a pinch), we’d be out. That’s not partnership- it’s a supplier relationship.

Our mission has to be to become our client’s most valuable, most indispensable supplier. To achieve this, we have to become TRUSTED ADVISORS. Here’s how.