The Art of Client Service
Robert Solomon has released an updated edition of his classic book on how to exercise strong client service. The 58 chapters criss-cross all aspects of the advertising industry, but the theme is relevant to any business interacting with clients — practice good customer service, and everyone wins.
There are few things more valuable to advertising, design and communications agencies than strong client account people. They constantly advocate for both the agency and the client, and it’s ultimately their business and personal relationships with clients that drive new work and keep everyone in business. As Robert Solomon often points out in the book, clients usually dump agencies because their account person did not do a good job communicating and tending to their needs. The quality of the creative work, in almost all of his examples, was irrelevant.
The Art of Client Service is about strong client service. Which is good customer service. Which is the aggregate of strong interpersonal skills, negotiation tactics, communication, research, speed, experience, market analysis, buying drinks, offering a strong opinion based on factual evidence, and the ability to graciously accept the client’s final directive when it completely flies in the face of everything you just pitched for 90 minutes. Yes, this book is written around the ad industry. But few of the topics are relegated exclusively to advertising. Your mom could read this book and learn as much as you.
The book is broken into 58 short, chunky chapters perfect for start-and-stop bathroom reading or a New York to San Francisco non-stop. Some chapters are specific (there’s one on giving strong PowerPoint presentations), others are broad (respect your design team). Some are practical (how to write a letter of proposal), others are just common sense (remember to say “thank you”).
The book is loaded with practicality and wit. Real-life examples are abundant, and the writing is razor-sharp and controlled. The experience of Mr. Solomon is evident; he writes with authority and empathy. Plus there are also some laugh-out-loud cartoons pulled from New Yorker magazine.
Having worked in a small agency that did not have account people and meeting with clients was a regular occurrence, compounded with my current freelance state where I serve as the full-time account person, full-time creative director and full-time web developer for my “business,” I can truly appreciate Mr. Solomon’s wisdom. His points are excellent, and there is not a single chapter of fluff. Any creative working in the real world will find this book indispensable.
While reading this book is somewhat related to my post about a similar topic, the timing was more serendipity than anything else. It just reinforced everything I was thinking at the time, and confirms my belief that good customer service is a virtue applicable across all industries. Robert Solomon just spells out in style and wit far better than I ever could.