Can Elite Client Service Skills be Taught?

To many of you it should come as no surprise why I was drawn to the recent New York Times story, “Why Nerds Rule the N.B.A.”  I am, after all, one part basketball junkie – a committed fan of the National Basketball Association in general and the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers in particular – and one part nerd (yes, I admit it, it’s true).

Unless you share my fan/nerd DNA, there’s no reason to read the piece, but I will point you to the line that caught my attention:  “not only can elite basketball intelligence be measured, it can also be taught.”

According to the article, “elite basketball skills” are defined as being able to anticipate if player’s shot will go in, based on a range of factors, among them the opposing team’s defense, is the player shooting off the dribble or from a pass, is his or her body square to the hoop, are their arms or legs askew?

It all sounds pretty technical to me – no wonder the article claims “Nerds” as part of its title – and I frankly have no idea if skills that rely as much on instinct as they do on training.  But it prompts a question:  can “elite” client service skills be taught?

Let’s start with how you might define the term “elite.”  With client service, it means being quick on your feet, being able to quickly address unanticipated challenges as they arise, knowing exactly what to say and when to say it, stuff like this.  Capabilities that admittedly are hard to define, let alone to prepare and train for.

There also are skills you also might define as elite that are vastly easier to teach, acquire, and perfect; things that seem obvious, at least to me, but often are overlooked by client service people, who, even if they know they should do them, often don’t, or don’t do them as well and as consistently as they should:

  • Knowing how to run a meeting, brief a colleague, formulate a schedule, or prepare a budget; and,
  • The ability to collaborate on and craft a conference report, proposal, a scope of work,  creative brief, or presentation that is clear, concise, and effective in representing the agency’s point-of-view.

Combine both – skill driven by instinct; skill driven by craft – and what do you get?  You get elite.

Can some of these tasks be taught?

Yes, they can.

You begin with my book – in my view the best below-$20 return-on-investment you’ll ever make – continue with a workshop that builds on the competencies it covers, then sustain with on-going, one-to-one or small-group coaching that confronts challenges in real-time.

We are nearing the end of a year and a decade, about to embark on a new one.  If ever this was a time for determined resolutions, this is it. If you haven’t made a resolution that 2020 is the year you, your colleagues, and your organization get better at account management and client service, you might want to rethink this.

Why, you ask? Why should it matter?  And why should I care?

I might be a long way from playing professional basketball, but I do know a thing or two about what it means to build and sustain relationships with clients, what it takes to be elite, and how to get there.  I’ve spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of account and client service people who, at best, give short shift to these skills, and, at worst, dismiss and disdain them.

They shouldn’t, and nor should you.

This is an opinion of one, but it is my heartfelt, in-my-bones belief the investment you make in getting better is the one that will help you, your colleagues, and your organization grow and prosper in the coming year, and the years that follow.

I am here to help, so if this is something you’d like to pursue, I’d welcome your call or email. It costs nothing to engage and talk through how we might collaborate.  It costs nothing to request a proposal.  If I were the one facing the next decade’s challenge of how to keep and build on the clients I have while adding new ones, a call to me would be one I’d I make.