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Our Drive to Serve Clients - and the Rules of the Road


When you’re just learning to drive, navigating a two-way street requires extra attention, the same is true in client service writes Marcus Fischer, CEO of Carmichael Lynch

Our Drive to Serve Clients - and the Rules of the Road

My youngest son is learning to drive this spring, so I’ve been spending a lot of time in the passenger seat. Things are pretty chill as we inch around parking lots and practice engaging the emergency brake on hills. But heading out on the open road can be a little tricky. When you’re just learning to drive, navigating a two-way street requires extra attention.

The same is true in client service. If you’re the type of agency that either rolls over on every client ask or insists that it’s 'my way or the highway' when it comes to creative, then things are easy: It’s a one-way street of communication and ideas. It’s also, in my opinion, a dead end.

When you’re in a relationship that’s a two-way street, good ideas and important communications flow back and forth. There’s mutual respect, the foundation of any productive working relationship. There’s give and take - and yes, even a bit of tension on occasion. That’s the nature of two-way streets. Unlike one-direction thoroughfares, there’s a higher risk of collision. But there’s also more directions you can go. That’s why our agency prefers two-way relationships built on mutual trust, balanced viewpoints, and free-flowing communication.

Relationships that are 'two-way streets' are sometimes as difficult to navigate as actual two-lane streets, however. Over time, I’ve come to understand the rules of the road in such balanced interactions with clients. What are those rules? Buckle up and let’s take a tour.

Go slow. Yield often.

Every client is on a journey. They might be navigating a curve or hurtling toward a deadline or checking the map because they’re a little lost. Meeting them is like turning onto a new street - you gotta check the speed of traffic, look both ways, and choose the right lane. We believe in listening, testing ideas, and listening again to our clients before we put our foot on the gas. Even once we’re up to speed, we know the value of tapping the brakes on occasion. Sometimes clients swerve or stop without warning. Our job is to anticipate the changes and get them back on the road with confidence and clear direction.

Signal your turns.

Unless it’s a Ferrari under the tree on Christmas morning, we honestly don’t like surprises. And neither do most of our clients. That’s why we work in tandem with clients, talking through ideas before we road-test them. If we’re moving in a fresh new creative direction, we flip on the blinker before we turn the wheel so our clients have a sense of where we’re going. Good signals mean fewer accidents.

Stay in your lane - mostly.

Our customers are successful because they know their business inside and out. It’s not our business to monkey with their operations or poke at their strategy. Or is it? If we know a shortcut or a scenic route to our customer’s destination, isn’t it our job to share it? We believe we owe that to our clients. We never insist - it’s not our way or the highway - but we wouldn’t be a good partner if we didn’t share what we know from six decades of work with smart people across multiple industries. Pull over for just a second and let’s talk about where you’re going.

Speak up if you’re the co-pilot.

You don’t have to be in the driver’s seat all the time. And if you see a semitrailer or even a smaller challenge coming down the road, it’s never a bad idea to speak up. Multiple eyes and ears are a good thing. As an agency, we appreciate collaboration and feedback from our clients.

Be open to the journey.

I still remember being able to go from neighbourhood drives to interstate driving. Eventually, I was part of the rotation of drivers on long family road trips. It didn’t happen overnight. I was more confident and able to go further and ultimately able to explore wherever the road would take me. In my interactions with clients today, I’ve come to realise that the end of the journey is often the start of a fresh trip. We work with clients again and again, and each time we get a little farther - all of us together, going the distance.

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Carmichael Lynch, Thu, 28 Apr 2022 14:41:40 GMT