FROM GOOD TO GREAT! How to Attract and Keep Clients

Last week I had the privilege of co-presenting a workshop with Wayne Pagani (W.P. Consulting & Associates) at CANNEXUS 2014 – the National Career Development Conference in Ottawa. The title of our workshop was “FROM GOOD TO GREAT! – How to Attract and Keep Clients”.

As a group, we first did some brainstorming, listing the general characteristics of POOR service delivery along side the characteristics of GREAT service delivery. We later applied these lists to our own field of Career Development. Here are some of the points that we explored:

  • Rude
  • Impersonal
  • Shows no interest
  • Feel like a number
  • Provider appears to be more interested in $$$$ signs
  • Inferior content or product
  • Sold something that is not a fit
  • Gives excuses
  • Doesn’t listen
  • Focused on self or the company
  • Inconsistency of service
  • Delays in fulfillment
  • Caring
  • Listening
  • Acknowledgement
  • Good followup
  • Smiling
  • Competent in service
  • Friendly
  • Kind
  • Consistency of service
  • Treated as an individual – not as a “client clone”
  • Responsive to complaint or concerns
  • Do what they say they will do
  • No waits
  • Going out of one’s way – above and beyond the call of duty
  • Communicates appreciation for client’s patronage – sometimes by simply saying “thanks” and sometimes in concrete ways

Someone at the workshop summarized “great service” as, “Treating the client the way that I would like to be treated in that situation”. I think that’s a wonderful rule of thumb – basically the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Who of us wants to be served in the manner represented by the left column? In contrast, who would not be thrilled to be served in the manner represented by the right column?

An important point we observed is that GREAT SERVICE DOESN’T FINANCIALLY COST OUR BUSINESS ANYTHING! It’s a mind-set and way of treating people as important individuals! It might cost a little bit of time and effort, but I’m sure that most everyone would agree that the benefits greatly outweigh the costs.

While those who deliver poor service likely have excuses that seem good to them (a bad day, excessive pressure, I hate my job, the processes are cumbersome, etc.) in the end there is a cost to the business as well as to the individuals themselves. As a business, we lose repeat business from each dissatisfied client, and likely all the other potential clients that this individual will warn about the poor level of service. As an individual, if we allow ourselves to slip into the habit of delivering poor service, we also hurt ourselves – developing bad habits and attitudes that will hamper us in our professional growth and advancement. So let us all put aside the excuses! Get to the root of the problem and resolve it! There is no good excuse for poor service!

The benefits of great service are many. It provides a professional experience that the customer will likely want to come back and experience again. For those bean-counters who are focused on the bottom line – repeat business means increased revenue! And if the client is thrilled with their service, they will want to tell the world about the great service they received – meaning even more revenue! Our business relies on word-of-mouth referrals, and you can’t buy advertising like that! On a personal level, those individuals who practice great service are more likely to be recognized for their level of service and have more opportunities to advance professionally. They are also creating great personal habits (being friendly, being competent, honouring one’s commitments, etc.) that will help them in any walk of life.

As Career Development Professionals, we challenged ourselves in some practical ways for delivering GREAT service:

  • Ensure that the client’s FIRST ENCOUNTER with the organization, usually a phone call, is a great experience – friendly, no waits, prompt followup
  • RELATE – use language and vocabulary that the client will understand throughout their experience with us
  • EMPATHIZE with their situation – relate to them as an individual
  • LISTEN to their accomplishments, achievements and “proud moment” stories
  • Become your client’s BIGGEST FAN – provide encouragement
  • Find your client’s VALUE PROPOSITION for the marketplace – show competence as a Career Professional
  • Find OPPORTUNITIES and LEADS for your client – look for opportunities to open new doors for them
  • Be a strong ADVOCATE for your client – speak on behalf of your client where possible
  • THANK your client for their patronage! Thank them in concrete ways for referrals (gift cards, etc.)
  • Embrace CONTINUOUS LEARNING – maintain and grow your competencies
    • Read industry-related books, news, articles and posts on career strategy topics
    • Join a peer-mentorship group
    • Find a mentor who can help you address your specific issues
    • Network and share ideas with other professionals – LinkedIn, forums, etc.

At the workshop, our final challenge was, and it’s a challenge that I leave with all my Career Development colleagues out there, what one or two actions can YOU take to improve your organization’s client experience? You don’t have to solve all the issues at once – just one step at a time. If you are a front-line service professional, what single point above can you improve that would have the most impact? What are the barriers? How can those barriers be addressed? What is your next step?

If you are not be on the front lines – an administrator, executive or middle manager – what impacts do your policies, procedures and processes have on your front-line service providers and their ability to deliver GREAT service? How can you make it easier for your front-line staff to achieve some of the points above?

I would be amiss if I didn’t point out that Career Professionals of Canada is a great association that provides many of the professional development opportunities mentioned above for Career Development Practitioners – peer-mentorship, tele-conferences, forums, social networking, training, awards, career development resources and a members’ service directory. I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already!


KevinSchaferKevin Schafer owns and operates Cardinal Career Management Service, providing both personal and
corporate career services to clients from students to executives. Kevin has been working in in the Career Services industry for nine years and became a Certified Career Specialist with CPC in 2012. Kevin lives in Ottawa with his incredible wife, three amazing teenagers and their talented dog named Trista.


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