Put These Brands’ Obsessive Customer Dedication to Work for Your Agency

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Today we bring you a guest post from Ben Kirshner, CEO of Elite SEM.

While the business strategy of Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” held a certain masochistic charm, treating your customers badly simply doesn’t work in the real world — even if your soup stand (or agency) is the best there is.

To build a base of loyal, happy clients, your agency must build a reputation not just for treating people well, but for having an obsessive dedication to your clients’ satisfaction.

Follow the examples of these exceptional brands to listen to your clients’ needs and show them that you care.

Great Customer Service Starts by Listening

J.Crew has grown into a $5 billion cult brand by going out of its way to listen to customer feedback when developing new lines of clothing. In fact, CEO Millard “Mickey” Drexler has been known to make personal phone calls to customers who email J.Crew customer service.

Just last year, Jenni Avins published an open letter on New York Magazine’s fashion website The Cut, requesting that J.Crew bring back her favorite discontinued swimsuit (“that simple, sexy, and sporty suit with straight, tank top-style shoulder straps that swoop like the letter U”).

This April, the company announced the return of the swimsuit with a full-page ad in the magazine, featuring a handwritten note from J.Crew Creative Director Jenna Lyons: “Dear Ms. Avins, your wish is my command…within reason. XO Jenna.”

When customers talk, J.Crew listens — especially when those customers are potential tastemakers whispering into their target audience’s ear. But today’s top brands also understand that great service starts by being proactive in taking care of your customers.

Zappos isn’t famous for shoes — it’s famous for providing a great end-to-end customer experience. A woman recently purchased six pairs of shoes for her mother, who had undergone a medical treatment that left her feet numb and sensitive to pressure. When the customer’s mother called for instructions on returning five of the pairs, Zappos sent her flowers with the company’s wishes for a speedy recovery.

Go Above and Beyond to Make Your Clients Feel Taken Care Of

Obsessive customer dedication means pulling out all the stops to ensure your customers feel taken care of. It’s the premise behind Silvercar, a seamless service that touts itself as “car rental that doesn’t suck.”

If a quality experience can work for something with as little customer face time as car rentals, imagine what it can do for your agency.

My company encountered a rare situation where we had to transfer a client to a new account manager. The new account manager was aware that the client wasn’t thrilled with the change, and before their first scheduled meeting, he sent flowers to the client with a note reading, “I promise I won’t leave you. Looking forward to growing our relationship.” The client felt understood and was impressed by his dedication, and the partnership got off to a great start.

Here are some tips for adopting a culture of obsessive client dedication in your agency:

  • Ask questions outside of the business grind — and listen closely to the answers. Did your client have to reschedule a phone call to attend his son’s baseball game? Next time, ask who won.
  • Don’t be so salesy. When taking a client out, think beyond the usual drinks or dinner. If your client is a New York Yankees fan, take her to a game. Choose a venue where the conversation isn’t strictly about business, and spend time getting to know your client.
  • Be proactive. Offer your clients value beyond what is expected of you. Forward links to industry blogs you find interesting and relevant to building their brand.
  • Follow up. If your client is hesitant about a product or opportunity that you think will be beneficial, make sure you show him the value. Showcase the opportunity and success story by finding case studies or testimonials from similar companies.
  • Remember the little things. Take note of people’s birthdays, and send handwritten notes. Find out how your client’s wisdom tooth surgery went, or send a care package to a first-time parent.
  • Acknowledge business referrals. Show your clients that you appreciate their business and the business they forward to your agency. When clients send people your way, order them a case of wine with a card that says, “Thanks for the referral. Have a few drinks on us!”

Even if your agency’s resources are spread thin, you can always find ways to develop a culture of obsessive client dedication. Engage with your clients as people — not just a set of goals and expectations. A little creativity and a lot of personal devotion can make a huge impact on your relationships.

Ben Kirshner is the CEO of Elite SEM, a fast-growing online marketing agency with a passion for building a team of industry experts. Elite SEM was recently named a Top 7 Tech Company To Work For by Mashable, Crain’s New York Business #1 Best Place To Work 2013, and has a Glassdoor 4.9/5 rating. Ben can be found on Twitter or Google+.