Let me give you an example of a job that could have ended in disaster, but was saved by a phone call.
I won a new client. Let’s call him Bob. My task was to promote an event that was already part underway, as Bob had sacked the first publicist. Looking at the brief, I realised the nature of the event was difficult to sell to media. My predecessor had no luck, but I had decided to give it a go.
Bob had complained about the previous publicist in a variety of colourful ways: badly laid-out media release, spelling errors, never called back. My ears pricked up at this last one. Never called back. I knew, by the tone of his voice, that effective customer service was a biggie for Bob.
If there’s one thing that clients hate the most, it’s being ignored.
So I made a point of finding out when Bob likes to be contacted and how. I then called him regularly, regardless of whether I had anything much to say. The calls generally took about three minutes, twice a week. If Bob ever called, I made sure I called him back by the end of the day.
In the beginning he liked my media layout and didn’t find any spelling errors, but I still didn’t manage to score much publicity for the event. I rang in and reported the no-news, then explained what I’d be trying next. The conversation always ended on a constructive and positive note.
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Bob wasn’t my only client. At this time I was juggling a number of other jobs as well. Soloists know that unforseen problems with one client can affect another, sometimes forcing an instant reshuffle of job priorities.
While I pride myself on efficiency and reliability, something unavoidable happened with another client. As a result, what I had planned for Bob’s event promotion was delayed by two days. I immediately picked up the phone and explained the situation to Bob, ending the conversation with what I’ll be doing next for his event and gave the assurance that everything was still firmly on track.
Bob could have been furious at this. Sure, he was disappointed, but by the end of the call he was satisfied he hadn’t been forgotten and knew that I was getting on with the job.
In the end we got some publicity, but not an enormous amount. The event didn’t attract the booking numbers needed and was cancelled. My relationship with Bob should have been in the doghouse, and that effect could have been ‘publicised’ to Bob’s friends and colleagues. But Bob paid me in full and said if he had another event in the future, he would call me. He must have noticed the doubt in my eyes, so he added “You did everything you could.” And he was right. I had. But he wouldn’t have known that unless I had provided him with effective customer service and kept him regularly briefed.
A year later, Bob followed through on his promise and called. This time the event was perfect for media attention and was a great success for everyone involved. The event also created new clients for my business. Never had I been so grateful that Bob called – just like he said he would.