Client service managers focus on keeping clients involved, engaged, and heard. At Shift Collaborative, we have two dedicated full-time client service managers (CSMs), each assigned to several client accounts. Both behind the scenes and on the frontlines, our CSMs get to know our clients, are attuned to their needs, and strive every day to steadily move work forward. Kind of like your friendly hotel concierge, except we don’t coordinate daytime travel excursions.
Here are some of our best practices and recommendations for developing healthy client relationships and maintaining that proverbial positive feedback loop.
Use the Right Tools (Internally and Externally)
Today, many agencies work in a remote or hybrid fashion, and Shift is no exception. The flexibility of a remote environment has (so many) benefits, but, like so many things in the world, you need the right tools for the job.
And, believe us when we say that internal team communications are as important to our client services as external communications. Here are some of the tools we love.
Email is so ubiquitous in our lives we may forget that it is a tool. At Shift, we use email as an external communications tool for the most part. It’s a simple but important means of staying connected in between meetings.
There are many options for team collaboration apps (just ask our friends at FSA Consulting). At Shift, we heart Slack and use it internally to keep our project communications organized and our team members informed. Internal communications help ensure that our projects stay on track, on time, and on budget.
Project Management Systems
When a client reaches out to us with a new project or request, the first place our client service managers go is to our preferred project management system, Asana. (Ok, that’s not entirely true, sometimes the first place the project lands is on a post-it note on our desk, but shortly thereafter it makes its way to Asana.) Did someone say subtasks? Tools like Asana allow us to keep track of our budget and progress so we can easily provide clients with a status update.
We strive to meet clients where they are (haha, see what we did there?). Usually our clients prefer the convenience of virtual meetings, but we accommodate in-person meetings as needed (and, by the way, we don’t love the term virtual meeting…because it is a real meeting whether it is in cyberspace or your office). Google Meet and Zoom are our preferred platforms as they integrate seamlessly with our calendars.
“Communication is the backbone of all of our projects, so having the right tools to keep in touch with my team members at Shift and with our clients is essential. Not only do we have the right tools, but we also work hard to customize how we use the tools. For example, some clients prefer Slack messages over emails, some team members prefer face-to-face chats over Slack, etc. No matter how the tools are used, we’re using them to work together and find solutions.”-Larissa, CSM
Determine Communication Styles + Meeting Cadence
Customization is key. We believe the best client service experiences come when we take the time to learn how to communicate with each client. As we work without clients we pay attention to the details. For example, in written correspondence are long emails or multiple short “one-off” emails more effective?
Over the years, we’ve learned regular check-ins are an important touchpoint for client communications. What do we mean by “regular”? Well, it depends. For some clients, we may recommend a weekly call, and for others a monthly check-in. But, maintaining a regular meeting is a best practice for planning and getting ahead of rush requests. Plus, we love talking to clients!
“Different things work for different clients. The most successful client relationships are ones where there is a trust and a shorthand between me and the client. This can take time to develop, but comes from truly taking the time to get to know people.”-Ali, CSM
Maintain a Growth Mindset
A growth mindset means that we never stop iterating, and are always ready to pivot and try new things. For this to work we are honest with ourselves and our clients about what is working and what isn’t. Sometimes we need to reframe our approach to communications challenges, and that is ok. We think it’s a good thing. When we realize something isn’t working quite the way we want it to, we think about why that is, and how we can communicate better, and then we take action and implement any adjustments needed for the best client experience.
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