3 Tips to Keep Your Clients Happy-The Platinum Rule (Part 1)

From early childhood on we’re taught the Golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” When you think about it, that’s really the height of egotism. Why should we assume that others want to be treated the way we do? Instead, Dr. Tony Alessandra (author and speaker) proposes the Platinum Rule, “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Eureka.

That fundamental concept of looking beyond our own needs, wants and preferences to those of the other guy is the key to success for anyone in a client service business. Sounds good in theory, now how do you do it? Based on 30 years of client service experience, lots of listening to clients and supported by the insights of authors specializing in client service (David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford,  Jagdish Sheth and Andrew Sobel and Thomas K. Connellan and Ron Zemke)* there are three ways for those in PR, advertising and web marketing firms to live the Platinum Rule:

  1. Minimize the risk; maximize the reward
  2. Cultivate the relationship
  3. Sharper your communication skills

We’ll save #2 and #3 for future blogs, but let’s start with a closer look at the blinding flash of the obvious suggestion to “minimize the risk; maximize the reward.

Imagine you are the person turning to your PR, advertising or web marketing agency for help. What are they thinking and feeling (deep in their gut) as they entrust their new product, new service or new program to you? “Will those marketing guys and gals get ‘it’?” “Could those marketing experts really be as committed to my product as I am after I’ve worked night and day on this product for the past twelve months?” “Will this agency help my program be as successful as my competitor’s’ agency has helped them?” “Will they be worth the money we’re investing?” “Will my boss think I made a good choice?” “Will they help me get the promotion I want after this program launch or will I be fired?”

Ultimately how well the agency does can make the marketing or communications manager look like a star or can doom the product and the manager to failure. The decision to work with the agency isn’t just a business decision it’s a personal decision. So your job is not only to do your job, but to reassure the person asking for your expertise. You need to minimize the inherent risk (unexpected costs, wrong direction, communication missteps, product failure) and maximize the reward (product success, nailed messaging and break-through market perceptions, new opportunities, business growth) they’ll get when you brilliantly complete your work.

To minimize the risk and maximize the reward, you need to be part detective, part shrink and part psychic. Detectives sleuth out the context and understand the big picture (the client’s internal business pressures, market landscape, trends and opportunities) while still observing the details (meting deadlines, no big mistakes, staying within budget). Shrinks listen. They ask questions (open-ended, hard, unexpected and probing) that help them — and the individual — understand reality in a new way. Psychics see what’s not visible (potential market scenarios, possible audience impact or potential new audiences, unanticipated challenges). All three focus on how they can help solve the client’s problem or hone insights unobtainable without their unique outside perspective. They clearly move their clients beyond where they could possibly be without their help.

Being a detective, shrink and psychic will help you minimize the risks and maximize the rewards, and will keep you focused on what the client wants and needs to be successful. You’re on your way to delivering client service according to the Platinum Rule!

A closer look at ways to cultivate the relationship (part 2) and sharpen your communication skills (part 3) in Wednesday and Friday’s blogs.

*Maister, Green and Galford wrote Trusted Advisor, Sheth and Sobel wrote Clients for Life and Connellan and Zemke wrote the Knock Your Socks Off Service series.

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