It is amazing to me. Over the last two months, I have won more clients due to the competition providing poor customer service than for any other reason. My competitors seem to be falling short in this most basic area. But this seems to be a broader problem. Not only are vendors getting sloppy with regard to providing quality client service, but it is becoming acceptable.
When companies are small, they pay attention to the details. They coddle their clients and they hand-hold each deal because they are precious. As the company grows – especially when they grow fast – they can sometimes lose sight of the relationships that got them there in the first time. I’ve seen this happen and have been guilty of it myself. But I also have been quick to back-step and make right when I realize that I have fallen prey to the “getting too big too fast” mentality.
Relationships are paramount to any business’ success, and yet in seems that in this business, vendors can be flip about it. Especially when it comes to client services. Sales people are big on developing the relationship and ‘solution selling’ to get the creatively constructed deal, but when it comes to follow-through is when the relationships fall short.
With ad servers, clients complain about never hearing from their Account Managers. “I never get a call returned,” is something I commonly hear. “They never respond to my technical issues” is another. Being relegated to a 1-800 number and never getting the same person twice is a very impersonal level of client support. It’s like calling Dell or Citibank. You’re just an anonymous number and in the corporate world, people expect more from their vendors.
Publishers are guilty on the sales side as well. So many of my clients tell me that they don’t have big enough budgets to get the attention they deserve out of Yahoo!, AOL or MSN. They may spend $50,000/mos on one campaign but that’s not enough. Money talks unfortunately and it shows when it comes to service.
Relationships go a long way in business and talk is cheap. For me, I try real hard to explain to prospective clients that my company has a different way of going about servicing its clients. We care about out customers and we personalize our services. We’re not a goliath but we’ve been through the growing pains and have managed to keep perspective on the value of our clients. But the proof is in the pudding. My team and their actions are what matters the most. The fact that they follow through is where the difference is made. I develop relationships but my associates grow them. We work together closely to make sure that happens. Perhaps that is the difference.
When I talk to clients about their experience with other ad servers, with publishers and with networks, I ask about their client satisfactions levels. They don’t have good things to report. It’s not all complaints, just never rave reviews. There is a lot of room for improvement out there. Customer loyalty levels are not based on the relationship values right now If your product is not performing at or above expectations, if client experience with your product or service is not at or above satisfaction level, you may lose the business. Whereas, if the relationship were stronger you might have a chance to improve things since the clients would come to you with their problems, offering you the opportunity to improve on the situation. Even more importantly, if the relationships were stronger, you would already be aware of problems and could proactively be correcting them.
Client service is the foundation of your business. Don’t let that slip because when you do, someone who cares more about relationships will be waiting to take advantage of it. Your clients will pay attention to that.
Reactionary with Insight.
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