Ever wonder how to deliver world-class client service?
I used to wonder, until I got to work along-side a great leader for nearly a decade, on one of our Fortune 100 clients: Caterpillar.
In the actuarial world, my boss Steve wasn’t just jack of all trades, he was master of them all. You name it – client relationships, technical expertise, new business, presentations, recruiting… they were all his wheelhouse.
He was super charismatic and had this magnetism about him, the kind of personality that would draw people and somehow motivate them to deliver their best, just by showing up the way that he did.
Steve was challenging to work for, in the most positive sense of the word, and I’ve incorporated much of what I learned directly from him into my business.
He used to take me to meetings at Caterpillar headquarters in Peoria, IL, which was a 3 hour drive from our office in downtown Chicago, and we always filled the time with conversations about life, and business.
I use the term conversations loosely here – Steve was a fabulous storyteller, so it was mostly him telling stories, and me listening, laughing and absorbing his business wisdom.
There are many things that go into delivering world-class client service, but I’d summarize my five main takeaways from my experiences as follows:
- Relationships, relationships, relationships – “Building Relationships, Producing Results” was the guiding principle at our firm, and I must have heard that phrase thousands of times over the course of my corporate career. Focus on the relationships, and the rest will follow.
- Sky-high standards – The work needs to be “beyond reproach.” Another phrase I heard thousands of times. In other words, the work needs to be pretty darn perfect. We had many systems in place to ensure this, including layers of review built in…Technical, reasonableness, client-perspective review.
- Overcommunicate – There’s no such thing as too much communication. Ensure the right people have the right information, then follow-up, clarify, summarize, and remind. Communication always needed to be airtight from beginning to end.
- No surprises – Anticipate any deviations from expectations well in advance and present options for dealing with any adversity.
- Be proactive – Don’t wait. Need something? Ask for it. Not hearing back? Follow up. Spot an opportunity? Seize it. (Those of you who have experienced my follow-up game… you know I will find you!) Always be one step ahead – anticipate what the client will ask and have an answer for it ready to go.
And lastly, I always have to put in a little plug for the cardinal rule in leadership: show up as yourself. Make every day “Bring your personality to work day.” You’ve got more in you – I know you do. Stop worrying about how you SHOULD be showing up and start showing up as YOU.
Steve sure knew how to do that well, and he didn’t hesitate to bring his sense of humor into the boardroom. When he was asked in an executive presentation how to handle a particular situation, his response was:
“There are several different ways to skin the cat…” (Cat – short for caterpillar. Get it??) I still laugh. Authenticity always lives on.
I’d love to help you and your organization come up with a plan to deliver world-class service to your clients. Grab a time here and we’ll get this show on the road.
Have a wonderful week!