Book Review - The Art of Client Service by Robert Solomon

book courses & learning resources Jul 28, 2021
Book

READ: 2 mins
REVIEWER: Robert Craven

A great, if slightly general, instruction manual on the subject, but not a book that excited me.

Let me explain why.

  1. A lot of people I respect have recommended it
  2. It has some rave reviews
  3. The title is right up my street
  4. The book starts really strongly

I am not in the habit of writing bad reviews. If I don’t like a book, I probably don’t finish it. I probably don’t review it. But I did read this to the end.

The problem may be mine. After all, many moons ago, I penned the book Customer is King. In a nutshell, that book said see everything from the customer’s point of view: their problems, hurts, needs and itches. This, combined with my recent reading and re-reading of They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan, has confirmed my obsession with thinking things through from the customer’s point of view. So I thought I was in for a well-timed treat.

The Art of Client Service is broken into 52 small chapters – neat statements or truths across several distinct parts of the client service subject. Part titles included:

  1. How to be great with clients
  2. Winning new business for your agency
  3. Beginning a client relationship
  4. How to…
  5. Formulating the brief that drives great creative
  6. Establishing Trust with clients
  7. Building long-term client relationships
  8. How to deal with unhappy clients
  9. Regaining client trust.

 

The book starts strongly:

  • “It seems so simple; why is it so hard” – spot on
  • “What makes great client service?” – a lot of things but especially integrity, judgment, ideas and communication with and for the client – spot on
  • “You can do great work and still get fired” – yes
  • “The trust triangle: relationship builds trust which leads to great work which builds relationship…” - yes it is all about trust

So I was really happy with the first 10 or so pages. But then I felt the book covered a lot of self-evident truths.

  • Ideas are the currency we trade in
  • Never forget it’s a business
  • Always think endgame
  • No surprises about money or time
  • Deal with problems head-on

These are all subjects that need to be covered. And maybe that is why the book didn’t float my boat. It is almost the book to accompany a course, The Art of Client Service, designed for early years staff at an agency. If that was its purpose then it nailed it. But for me, I just didn’t get that need to copy down chunks of text that I get when I have a special book in front of me.

I think this book is aimed at the less experienced manager who is starting to dabble in account management and what it means. It is also looking more at the ads and marketing world rather than having a pure digital agency/performance focus.

It does remind us of all the basics and it does remind us that client service doesn’t just happen and that you need to have a playbook in your organisation. It prompts you to think about how we should, will and must approach client service and how to create a model of business development.

The memorable takeaways from the book are also excellent:

  • In a high-tech world, it pays to be low tech.
  • Judgment overrides any rule.
  • Happy clients help you gain new ones.

If you are after a simple (and there is nothing wrong with simple) instruction manual to help you be more successful in working with clients then it may be for you. If you are still learning the ropes then this probably is for you: it is thorough, thought through and covers all the bases. And with the right attitude and approach.

But it just didn’t float my boat. Probably my problem.