I’m at a cocktail party; the subject turns to The Art of Client Service. Someone asks, “What is so special about this book? Why does it matter? Why should I read it?”
Here is how I reply:
“This is a business where everything changes; those who survive — better yet, thrive — are the ones not daunted or cowed by change. Instead, they are energized and motivated by it, able to reimagine, rethink, and redefine the work they do.
“There are, however, some things that should not change, that should remain timeless and enduring, which explains, in part, the sustained success of The Art of Client Service, now in its third edition, having been in print for the past 14 years.
“The author, Robert Solomon, has done the seemingly impossible, defining and delineating what is generally considered, at best, elusive: delivering stellar service to clients and superior support to colleagues. While the business we’re in has evolved, the principles Solomon sets forth remain instructive and relevant, especially in a world where clients switch agencies with increasing frequency, and the need for near-flawless client service is paramount.
“Solomon argues these principles are not innate; they instead can and should be taught and learned. The book takes you on a journey, starting with a definition of what makes great client service, then tracks the agency/client relationship through the entire lifecycle, including a “How to” section devoted to running a meeting, briefing a colleague, writing a conference report, perfecting a scope of work, building a schedule and budget, formulating a letter of proposal, and crafting a presentation. There’s a section on creative briefs, and a detailed chapter about idea creation. There’s even a section on how to deal with unhappy clients, and what it takes to regain client trust.
“What makes The Art of Client Service thoroughly approachable are the stories — some funny, some sad, all revealing — that illustrate what you should and should not do in dealing with clients and colleagues. They reinforce the need for deeper connection and collaboration with clients and colleagues, something we strive to achieve every day.
“If you think you still have something to learn about the craft of serving clients well, as most of us do, I suggest you take a look at the book’s latest edition, which differs substantially from its two predecessors in its organization (more accessible) and scope (broader and deeper). If you think you know all there is to know, it’s even more important you pick up a copy, given you are certain to discover something – an approach, a technique, a process – that eluded you. For $15, the book is an investment that pays dividends well beyond it modest cost.
“Nearly everyone who works in advertising is smart, innovative, and resourceful, but even the most motivated and disciplined agency staffer will, on occasion, fail to perform to expectations. This explains why the book is so valuable as a guide and a reminder of what we need to do to deliver for clients. It serves as a much-needed compendium of what we do, and how to do it better, which is why I bought a copy, and suggest you do the same.”
And then I wake up.