Are you worried your clients feel neglected? Are you hard-pressed to provide the customer care you think they deserve?
Taylor McMaster specializes in client services. In this episode she shares how you can upgrade your customer relations, from stellar onboarding to staying well abreast of their needs.
In the podcast:
01:53 – How one gets into client management. Taylor didn’t intend her current role in customer care.
03:50 – Getting your onboarding right. The monumental importance of the onboarding process, and what makes it good.
06:44 – When they want to deal only with the founder. Here’s how to instill in your clients confidence in your project manager.
10:43 – So you need a client account manager… Prepare for the challenge of hiring.
16:15 – Can CAMs generate referrals? You CAN get testimonials without being salesy.
20:02 – The importance of the daily pulse. Proactivity is a huge must in client services.
25:02 – Small things that make a huge difference. These are impactful things you can implement straightaway.
28:17 – The key thing you’ll want to take away. If you remember nothing else, keep THIS top of mind.
How do you achieve incredible, outstanding client service? This episode’s guest hopes to give us some pointers.
Taylor McMaster is the founder of DOT & Company, a former digital marketing agency that now specializes in client management.
How one gets into client management
Before creating DOT & Company, Taylor was looking after her own clients. In speaking with other agencies, she realized this was something other people struggled with. So she founded a business to provide this much-needed service.
Taylor’s current livelihood lets her do something she enjoys, helping agency owners who don’t love to talk to clients, don’t love to project manage, and who should be outside of the day-to-day of their agency or their business.
It’s really fun, says Taylor. And they get to work, she says, with some really awesome clients.
“You can’t have the business without the customers.”
James can tell she’s passionate abut it, and he suspects a lot of agency owners are less enthused about dealing with the client. But obviously, you can’t have the business without the customers.
Peter Drucker said something like, the purpose of a business is to generate and keep a customer. So that being the case, you need clients. But – you don’t need to talk to them yourself. You can actually have a client account manager, or CAM. That’s sort of the key phrase Taylor works around.
Getting your onboarding right
The onboarding experience is an important one. How would Taylor go about perfecting it, as either a solopreneur or agency owner with CAMs?
Onboarding, says Taylor, is her favorite thing to talk about, because it’s the beginning of the client-agency relationship. After telling the prospect how great your agency is and winning them over, it’s time to give them the experience they’ve been anticipating.
Taylor trains her team at DOT & Company to have an onboarding process that is inside of the agency and that’s unique to the agency. So if you’re an ecom agency onboarding five clients a month, you should have a general onboarding flow to bring those clients into the business. And it’s important, even just at the very beginning of the onboarding process, to make that handover smooth.
A lot of agency owners have a client account manager or project manager who takes over the client onboarding, to ensure that everything goes smoothly. So inside of Dot and Company’s onboarding processes, they have email templates, and kickoff call scripts, and all the processes that you should have, down to how to create the briefing documents, what emails to send, and how to get them scheduled into the happiness surveys.
Onboarding should be super streamlined and repeatable, says Taylor, because if your goal is to scale, and to be consistently bringing on new clients, the better your process is, the easier it’s going to be. So when her company onboards a new agency, they have onboarding processes at DOT that they implement into the agency.
That’s going to be customized, however, and will change based on what your service offerings are, or who your clients are, what your team looks like. And it gives the client, the first few days, the experience that they need to set the relationship on a good foot.
When they want to deal only with the founder
It often comes up in small agencies that the customer only wants to deal with the owner. How do you deal with that in the onboarding situation?
Taylor thinks it all starts with the sales process. If you, the founder, are on the sales calls, you need to be talking up your team throughout. You need to be telling the client, Once you sign this agreement, I’m going to introduce you to Taylor. She’s going to make sure your project runs smoothly, and I’m not bogging anything down. I’m here if she has questions, but she’s going to be your main point of contact moving forward. You need to set those expectations in the sales process.
Of course, if you’re a solopreneur, you tell customers, I’m going to take care of you throughout this whole journey. I’m your go-to person. This is what most agency owners eventually want to outsource.
Set expectations from the get-go, as early as the sales process, so that people know what to expect and who they’re going to be speaking to.
James knows someone who’s just hiring a team member. His intent is to turn over his current client to the team member so he can have space to look after some new clients he’s taking on. What would Taylor advise this person?
This comes up a lot, says Taylor. A lot of agency owners come to them with clients they’ve had for five years or more, and they have these deep relationships. Taylor has her own clients she’s worked with for years, and she knows it’s hard to transition. But in order for you to get ahead, to grow your business, it needs to happen, and most business owners understand that.
Introducing your CAM when you have that deep a relationship with your client is different than when the customer is new. Take it slow, says Taylor. Introduce the client account manager slowly. Bring them on the meetings, cc them into the emails and start to give them authority. Maybe they’re in an email thread, and you can say, Oh, that’s a question for Taylor. I’ve copied her in here. And start to give your CAM the tools to make themselves look good and make them look like the person who knows what’s going on.
Eventually, the client will realize they can get quicker answers from their account manager, and will go straight to him or her. What’s key is transitioning properly and professionally and making sure the clients feel still taken care of.
Would you need permission from the client? asks James.
Taylor suggests a more authoritative approach, along the lines of, This is what’s happening.
James thought she might say that.
Yeah, says Taylor, because if you ask permission, they’re going to say, No, I only want to talk to you.
Exactly right, says James. It happened to him as a salesperson, when he moved to sales manager. He had a huge repeat referral base, and they wanted to deal with him.
A very basic thing, he says, is to make sure your client account manager is responding faster than you. That way the customer will automatically go to them in the future.
So you need a client account manager…
Now, says James, if you’ve decided you want to get a client account manager, you could try to find one yourself. Or you could get in touch with Taylor, and talk to DOT & Company about installing someone for you. That’s one of their services. The other is training client account managers inside their membership.
Yes, says Taylor. And she will say that hiring client account managers is a hard and time-consuming task. You’re basically looking for a unicorn that has traits and experience and personality and everything for the job. They actually have team members dedicated to it almost full-time. And some of the SOPs they have in place for hiring are like the onboarding process – everything should be very specifically laid out.
It’s everything from what is the job description, where are you posting it, where are people applying, who reviews it, who sends the acceptance or decline email? It’s very important, she says, to have an SOP for hiring based on just this client account manager, because if you’re hiring a media buyer, that looks very different than hiring someone to manage your clients.
The things they look for in their SOP are:
Have you worked in an agency? Have you worked with clients? Do you understand digital marketing? Do you understand strategy of marketing? Can you speak to the KPIs? That kind of overall experience.
This is probably the hardest thing to hire for. They get people to send Loom videos in the hiring process. The get them on coffee chats with a couple of their team members. They get interviews. The candidates have numerous ways of showing their personality, whether it’s verbal, video, written – all these components that you should be testing for throughout your hiring process.
And then, says Taylor, there’s having step-by-step for the person you’re hiring. You show them, next step is going to be this. And then if you progress, you go to this step, and this step, and this step. And if it’s laid out, it makes everything much more streamlined.
But hiring client account managers, like she said, is hard. And it takes a long time. And you can even get to the end of your hiring process, and say, This person isn’t going to be a good fit for my agency. Which happens a lot.
You just have to be very patient, Taylor says. You have to dedicate a lot of time to hiring the right people. Because at the end of the day, these people are working with your clients, and your business relies on your clients. So this hiring SOP should be very streamlined and test people in all of the ways possible.
In terms of SOPs, James imagines Dot and Company supply some of those when people become a member, if that’s what they want to do.
For sure, says Taylor.
And she thinks it’s super important to understand what your hiring timeline looks like, because it can take months and months and months. A lot of people come to them and need a client account manager tomorrow. That’s a process, to get someone into your agency and get them learning and up to speed.
It’s been a mantra of James’s for a long time: the best time to hire someone is well before you need them.
Can CAMs generate referrals?
One of the ways that people scale, says James, is they get referrals from existing customers. Is this something a CAM can do? Do they train them on that?
The way they look at it, says Taylor, is they want to ask for testimonials from the client to make them think how awesome the agency is, or really reiterate the fact that they’re crushing it for them. So they have processes that they follow.
There are things that you can do ahead of asking for a testimonial that make it feel less salesy and make it feel like, Oh, yeah, I love working with you, I’ll totally give you a testimonial.
Taylor thinks the most important thing is asking for feedback, and being proactive in asking for feedback. They call them happiness surveys. They want to know how the onboarding process went. How did you feel your client account manager communicated with you? How do you feel your project is going? They ask these questions and showing their clients that they actually care by asking for these happiness surveys every couple of weeks.
Then, she says, you might send a Starbucks gift card, and saying something cheeky like, Sorry that I can’t meet you for coffee in real life, have a Starbucks on me. Something like that. Or you might send them a welcome gift, or you might be crushing it in the first month with their results. And then at that point, you can ask them for a testimonial inside of your happiness surveys.
When they onboard a new agency, firstly, they have happiness surveys for when the client’s working with the client account manager. Currently, however, their sales marketing manager will also ask for feedback on the sales process. She’ll ask, How did it go? Did you feel supported? Did you understand the process? Oh, and do you have anyone else you would like to refer to us? Kind of easing it in so that you don’t feel awkward asking for testimonials or referrals, but you’re leading them down this path to speak highly of you, and talk about you, and tell their friends about your business.
Taylor thinks when you’re thinking about asking for referrals or testimonials, you can do it, you just have to kind of lead them down that path.
In the online business, says James, they’re using things like the net promoter score at the moment. And when someone gives you a 10, they’re a perfect opportunity to ask for a referral. He supposes what Taylor’s just described is more or less a really enhanced version of that, where you’re making sure they had a good experience before you ask them to refer to someone else, because it would be daft to just cold ask for a referral and assume that they’ve had a good experience when in fact, they may not have.
He especially sees this from the perspective of an agency owner. They would love to know how the customer is feeling about their CAM, whether they’re doing a good job or not. They’d want to know quickly if things are going awry before it costs them a customer.
“One way to learn is to ask.”
Yeah, says Taylor. You want to know if your clients aren’t happy. If they’re going to leave, you want to know. If they’re super happy, you want to know why, what’s making them happy. It’s the only way to learn. Like James says, ask your clients questions. Learn quick, pivot quick, do things in a way that you’re learning, and the only way to learn is to ask.
James was going to crack a joke about Starbucks. In Australia, they only send a Starbucks voucher to people they don’t like.
Oh, yeah, Taylor says, they’re coffee snobs in Australia.
Total coffee snobs, says James. Starbucks didn’t have much success in Australia.
The importance of the daily pulse
James wants to hear about the daily pulse.
Taylor’s motto in anything client service is proactivity. Be proactive, ask your clients, update your clients, talk to your clients before they come looking. In the agency world, most of them are remote. And things can fall through the cracks, and clients can sometimes go days without being communicated with.
She thought about how she could train her team to do the things that she just naturally does, communicating proactively with her clients. So the daily pulse is kind of their secret weapon to ensuring that their clients are in the loop of what’s going on.
Sometimes that means just a quick update of, Hey, here’s the next step, or, Hey, we don’t have the creative yet. But here’s why. And here’s the next step, I’m still pushing your project forward.
“The more proactive you can be, the better relationship you’re going to have with your clients.”
Taylor thinks the more proactive you can be, the better relationship you’re going to have with your clients. When someone is spending thousands of dollars with your agency a month, they want to feel like they’re your only client.
And the more that you can make them feel like that, by taking two seconds to shoot a quick email or a Loom video or jump on a 10-minute call with them, the longer they’re going to stay. They’re going to feel that relationship with you as the client account manager. And it just gives you that gut check that you are being proactive with them.
They actually put that inside their project management software. In the beginning stages of the relationship, you would have this to check off every day: Did I touch base with James? Did I touch base with Bob? Did I touch base with Betty?
As client account managers, they’re checking boxes every day. So the more you can give yourself these reminders to touch base with clients each day, the better. Though as the relationship progresses, it may not be every day.
When James was at Mercedes-Benz, a lot of the cars they would order were to be built in the future. They called them forward orders.
James would get numerous follow-ups at different stages from people on their orders. This made him realize, he needed to provide updates. He would use a combination of handwritten letters, phone calls and emails to inform clients of their order’s status.
This is where we’re up to. Your car will be built next month, or, your car is in production now. Your car has been built, and it’s heading to the dock. Your car’s gone from the dock to the boat. Your car is floating across the Indian Ocean right now. Your car has just arrived in Australia, and it’s going through customs. Your car is on its way to the dealership.
James noticed, when people came to get their car, aside from very low stress levels, they’d thoroughly enjoyed the storyline of their car.
Small things that make a huge difference
Now what are the small hinges that swing big doors? What are the few little things that a CAM can do to make a big difference in a customer experience, that they can take away and do tomorrow?
James has mentioned one of the things Taylor uses, which is sending handwritten cards. They still do this, she says. If new members are close enough, they’ll send them a little notebook with a sticker and a welcome card in it. These little things go so far. Clients will send them a picture, like, Wow, got your note in the mail, it’s so awesome. We don’t really get handwritten cards anymore, so people love them.
Loom videos are something their team members use a lot of, because it gives that human element. You can see when the clients watched it, and you can easily share. Taylor sends Loom videos to clients and team members all the time.
The last thing, she says, is just being there for your clients. It’s just being the advocate for your clients, if you’re in the email inbox, and you’re getting back to them quickly, and you are doing whatever it takes to make them happy.
You’ll see the appreciation, she says, when you’re a client account manager working with clients who’ve been with the agency for years, and who used to only go to the agency owner. When they start to come to you, and call you, and just want a meeting with you, you know you’re giving them the experience that they need. And it’s just being proactive, friendly and accountable. It’s making them feel like they’re the only client in the agency.
A lot of what Taylor’s saying, says James, can apply to a membership business, of which a good chunk of our listeners have. It’s the reason he started a membership, because he was a member of other memberships, and the founders were never there. They never checked in, they never touched base, they never personally interacted.
He’s made it a thing to be involved with his clients. He does the rounds on a regular basis, pretty much answering every single question every single day. He feels like the chief CAM in his own business, aside from his amazing support team on the help desk.
You really want your CAM to care a lot about the customer, he says, because the customer will pay the business, and the business can pay the team, and that’s the sort of circle of life. You look after the customers and you have a great business.
The key thing you’ll want to take away
Speaking directly to an agency owner, what would Taylor’s key message be that she’d like someone to take away and to implement from this episode?
Depending on your goals, says Taylor, if you are looking to scale your business, you need to get out of the client management right away, because it will allow you to not be bogged down with the day-to-day and to focus on the bigger things.
But also you need to be ready. You have to have the clientele, you have to have momentum, and you personally have to be ready to let go. And you have to understand that your client managers are not you. You have to train them to be as close as possible. But you have to give up some of that control.
“You have to go the extra mile in the agency world these days.”
Secondly, taking care of your clients should be number one. Whether that’s finding really good media buyers to get them results, finding really good client account managers to keep that relationship, sending them gifts, sending them all these things that really make that experience better, you have to go the extra mile in the agency world these days. So just keep that top of mind.
And if you don’t have the time to do it, definitely find someone else to help you do that, because it will keep your clients on for a lot longer.
If you have a team already who are working with your clients, Taylor and her team have mentorship programs, they call it The CAM Collective, at camcollective.co.
Or if you are looking to hire a client account manager for your agency, definitely get in touch at dotandcompany.co.
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