The “Willow Way” of Client Service: Essentials for Servicing Clients

I’ve been an employee at Willow for over 7 years. One of the key differentiators of our organization that I have witnessed is our true commitment to client service. As I would talk about this commitment and the way that we worked with new employees or clients, I began to find myself consistently using one phrase to explain our approach; the “Willow Way”.

It’s not uncommon to hear me say “the ‘Willow Way’ is to do X in this situation” or “here’s the ‘Willow Way’ of handling that situation. This “Way” is not a street name, but rather a phrase that encompasses all that is involved in servicing our clients to our ideal standards.

So here you have it…here’s the essentials of the “Willow Way” of client service. Many of these principles came from the Patrick Lencioni book, Getting Naked and have been applied to our approach.

Honor the Client’s Work:

  • We take an active interest in our client’s business.
  • We provide our best work every time. If we don’t have our best work to present, we ask for more time.
  • We give our clients what they want, but also what they need.
  • We fight for our work.
  • We engage our clients in our process.

Make Everything About the Client:

  • We live our client’s brand.
  • We strive to make our clients look like rock stars.
  • We don’t take the credit, but position our client as the one with the idea. Let them think it was theirs. No room for egos here.
  • We know our clients’ preferences (what they like to drink, when they prefer to meet, how they like to be communicated with, etc.) and seek to meet those preferences.

Do the Dirty Work:

  • We’ve been known to throw on a client’s polo and work in the booth with them at events.
  • We’re full service, and that means we’re not afraid to serve our clients however they need us to.
  • We don’t say “no.”

Take a Bullet for the Client:

  • We take on responsibilities for our clients (printing, media buying, coordination) and we have to fight the battles with our partners for our clients.
  • We accept responsibility for errors that may or may not have been our fault.

Celebrate Your Mistakes:

  • We admit when a mistake has been made and take responsibility for it.
  • We address a problem head-on, immediately, rather than letting it linger.
  • We find a solution for ensuring the mistake doesn’t happen again and provide a plan of action.

Make Dumb Suggestions:

  • We throw out ideas that fit within the strategy, but may not be exactly right.
  • We’re not afraid of a real “brainstorm” where no idea is a bad one.

Ask Dumb Questions:

  • We are curious. We ask lots of questions.
  • We dig deep and don’t stop at the easy stuff.
  • We listen. We don’t talk over each other or our clients.

Enter the Danger:

  • We’re not afraid to fail or make mistakes.
  • We’re not afraid to have difficult conversations.

Tell the Kind Truth:

  • We’re not afraid to tell our clients when we disagree with them.

Always Consult Instead of Sell:

  • We position ourselves as partners rather than vendors.
  • We have confidence in our abilities and our knowledge.
  • We provide rationale for our work and our recommendations.

Give Away the Business:

  • We give away free ideas.
  • We do spec work for existing clients.
  • We enable our clients to do things on their own, using the tools we have developed for them.

Admit Our Weaknesses and Limitations:

  • We admit when something is not our strength.
  • We walk away from work that is not a good fit for us.

Ownership:

  • We see every client is a “Willow” client and every member of the team owns every client.
  • We don’t just do the task we were asked to do, we engage in the project to the fullest and see what additional value we can bring, as an individual, to each client relationship.
  • We own a client phone call and seek to find an answer, even if we don’t know it.
  • We do what we say we will do, when we say we will do it by.
  • We hold each member of our team accountable to assist in delivering the best product to the client.

Vulnerability:

  • We know it’s ok to say, “I don’t know, let me find out for you.”

Responsiveness:

  • We answer the phone within 3 rings.
  • We return calls, emails and other communications within 24-48 business hours, both with clients and internally.

Accessibility:

  • We prefer “face time” rather than hiding behind email or phone.

Relationships:

  • We strive to know our clients at a deeper level, as friends, but still as a business relationship.
  • We stay in touch with former clients.

Communication:

  • We consult with the team before committing.
  • We prepare meeting agendas and use them.
  • We provide meeting recap reports to our team and the client.
  • We prepare client contact reports and progress reports that provide facts and insights.
  • We say “thank you.”

Encourage Service:

  • We reward for excellent customer service.
  • We train for meeting customer service expectations.


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