Apologizing for missteps
April 24, 2013
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Among the speakers at the recent Public Relations Global Network (PRGN) meetings was Ken Jacobs, president of Jacobs Communications Consulting, which consults and coaches agencies on a number of key business areas, including client service.

His presentation to the PRGN focused on taking client service up a notch – from four-star client service up to a five-star level.

Jacobs set the bar high, quoting Sam Walton“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.”

Jacobs pointed out that:

  • Many firms do what we do
  • They are calling our clients
  • Great customer service is a lot cheaper than over-servicing
  • It encourages clients to spend more

Here are his 10 top tips:

1.      Make it personal

Client and agencies have differing expectations.  The agency team should ask the client what their expectations are; immerse themselves in client business, visit them and observe them.

2.      Observe, ask, listen, think

Have fun with clients, whether it’s a ball game, lunch, happy-hour or coffee

3.      Always go beyond what’s promised

I always think “under promise – over deliver”

4.      Always know how team is doing = delivering vs. expectations

5.      Fix problems even if they are the client’s fault

6.      Surprise and Delight

It could be a bottle of scotch or wine, a hand-written note or the client’s favorite author’s new book

7.      Regularly show clients we care

Show concern about news that might affect the client’s business, and show them that it affects us, too.

8.      Show and tell we care about business

Tell the clients regularly that we appreciate them and that we are paying attention to them.

9.      Client satisfaction is not good enough

Seventy-five percent of clients who leave and agency ARE satisfied

10.  Be passionate about superior customer service


Any other ideas you’ve found to be highly effective in elevating your customer service?

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio


  1. Scott – I loved this presentation, too and when we had our staff meeting in San Francisco yesterday, I asked all account staff to come up with their own creative ways to provide superior client service. We’re going to share those ideas with each other and then implement right away. While we may think we do a good job of client service, there’s always room for improvement. Cheers, David

  2. The customer service role by its nature requires a greater ability in problem-solving and (albeit not always on a grand scale) project management than many sales roles. Customer service also tends to connect to – and requires cooperation with – far more internal functions than a basic selling role. In fact customer service has much in common with a major accounts sales role, given the emphasis on mediating, problem-solving and the need to react positively and creatively to diverse and unpredictable customer situations. And while this explains why so many of the best sales people started their careers in customer service, it certainly does not follow that the sales role is more important or more demanding than customer service. Usually the opposite is true – ask most customers. Many organizations could do well to think more creatively about where they put their emphasis in respect of customer service and selling.

  3. Ken Jacobs says:

    As you can imagine, I was delighted that you thought my presentation merited a share via the HMA blog. Many thanks.

    And thanks to your PRGN partner David Landis for his thoughtful comments above. There’s nothing as thrilling to a consultant as learning that agencies are taking action as a result of his presentation.

  4. And it is usually the small things that make all the difference.

  5. Ken Jacobs says:

    Abbie, that’s the fascinating thing (at least to me) about improving client service. Sometimes those little things mean so much to clients. Asking oneself the question “How can I surprise and delight my clients today?” is well worth answering, provided one then takes action!

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