anticipating client needs: discover their world

On our Blog, #UsDragons take time to impart some of the knowledge we’ve picked up along the way on all things Digital Marketing. This is because we are, of course, a digital marketing agency. And that means servicing our clients well is just as paramount to our success as is staying up-to-date on the latest Penguin release or social media platform.  It is absolutely critical that we provide superior client care and make sure we anticipate client needs proactively. This helps to build trust and create relationships that are collaborative in nature.

Recently, we had a lively discussion during a “Lunch and Learn” session that focused on understanding and anticipating clients’ needs by seeing things from their perspective; in essence, living in their world.  I’ll share some of the main points discussed since it’s likely these customer service management tips can be applied to your business too.

man holding phone on a video call with client - Dragon360

get to know your client

How well do you know your clients or customers?  And I don’t mean their sign or favorite color.  I mean how well do you know what your client has to deal with on a daily basis. What is your contact’s position on the organizational chart?  How complex is their organization’s internal politics? Can they make decisions on their own, on the fly, or do they have to get permission from someone, or a group of someone’s? What business challenges are they struggling with? How much pressure are they under from their managers to achieve goals and objectives? Do they have a major project they are working on that might not have anything do with your work, but affects their ability to focus on what you need?

Digital Marketing, especially social media, can require a pace of work and decision making to which many people are not accustomed. It can be easy to get frustrated when a client doesn’t get back to you with a decision that helps you, help them (thanks, Jerry Maguire). But that frustration is mostly our fault, not theirs. Expecting that our “issue of the moment” should be seen as a critical part of their day is really a revelation that we don’t understand their daily pressures.  Sure, an angry tweet from a rogue tweeter is damaging and needs to be addressed.  But, does it outrank a request our client might be handling from a senior executive that affects the department’s overall budget?  Probably not.

We have several real estate clients at Dragon360.  We recently had the opportunity to tour a building that one of our clients owns and manages in New York City. As we spent time with our day-to-day client contact, it was even clearer how busy this woman is! As we walked, she talked about parties that she had organized at the property, photo shoots she had coordinated, promotional artwork that she needed to finalize, a press release she was working to complete, and tours she was doing that day of other buildings.  All this was going on while she was giving us a tour after a 2-hour LinkedIn training session we had provided for her team.  Whew!  If ever I got a message that a person had a lot on their mind, that day it was loud and clear.  My teammate and I brought that back to the Dragon360 team so that they would understand that OUR priorities aren’t always going to be hers.

yellow post it notes on a whiteboard, strategic planning - Dragon360

be great, anticipate

Armed with the knowledge of what your clients have to handle day-to-day, you can now provide your customers a great gift…anticipation.  Perhaps the best way to think of this is…can you deal with a problem before it becomes a problem? Can you anticipate the client’s needs and integrate them into the workflow so that you can help the client solve issues or deliver results before they even realized they needed them? If so, your customer service skills have risen to a level of greatness!

A teammate came to me recently with just this type of situation.  She and another Dragon had been discussing the posts of a guest blogger who writes for one of our clients.  He has done great work and his posts are appreciated by our client.  But lately, we saw that his posts had started to drift away from the true needs of our client.  It’s not a huge problem right now and could probably go on for several more weeks or months, but, these two Dragons took the bull by the horns and advocated for a content plan solution that could result in a new, engaged blogger that would also involve the client’s customer base as part of the solution!  And now, here’s the gold of this situation…we presented this to the client, who wasn’t even aware of the problem!

aerial drone shot of question mark island in body of water - Dragon360

are you asking the right questions?

Anticipating your clients’ needs takes time and…some good open-ended questions!  When was the last time you asked your client, “What’s the one issue that has the potential to keep you up at night?” This type of probing question will give you a really valuable insight into your customer’s world.

here are a few more questions to ask to help you anticipate your clients’ needs:

  1. If you could solve one problem you’re facing today, what would it be?
    Gives you something with which to work as you formulate strategies for your ongoing work for them.
  2. Are you on track to meet your goals this year? If not, where is the biggest deficiency?
    Pinpoints the area that you better focus on in your work so that you help get them the results they want.
  3. We noticed that your main competitor made a major announcement recently. What impact will this have on your company?  How is your company going to react?
    Demonstrates that you are engaged with their industry, are paying attention to developments, and are basing your strategy on real-world situations.
  4. If you were to visit our office at the end of the year to present us with the most expensive bottle of champagne you could find because we had done such a great job, what would that take? 
    Ask this and you’ll know you are setting goals based on your customer’s true measure of success.

Leadership development professional Steve Giglio recently gave four examples of open-ended questions on his blog that are simple yet effective. The point is that when speaking with a client, it’s important to realize that there’s more to the story.  And if you take time to find out what that story is, even by just saying, “Really?”, you’ll learn a lot more about the situation and be far more prepared to do something about it.  Try it!

get ready to build valuable relationships

Dragon360 operates in a very competitive industry. And let me guess…you do too!  Everyone is looking for ways to elevate their services to a level that customers will value.  Understanding clients/customers’ needs, overall and day-to-day, combined with anticipating needs and problems and actively creating solutions, allows us to be considered strategic partners rather than vendors.  The former is valued as mission-critical, while the latter is a commodity that can be replaced by the next guy coming through the door.

What tactics have you found work well with anticipating your clients’ needs? How do you ensure your customer service skills are growing and improving constantly?

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