Exceptional client service

Article posted with permission from Sara Paine


Writer and consultant Sara Paine discusses exceptional client service and how to achieve it.  “Service” is often cited as a major factor in client satisfaction; clients must feel that you are providing them with a top-class service for the money that they are paying you, but what exactly does “exceptional service” mean?


Does the word “service” send a cold shiver down your spine? Does the thought of being available to clients 24/7 scare you and send you running for your “work – life balance” handbook? If so, you may need to take time out to put yourself in the client’s place and consider what you would expect if you were them.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of bad service yourself, you’ll think it’s all too obvious what you want from your suppliers, but it’s not always so obvious when you are the supplier yourself.

Service is often seen as a trade-off, where if one party “wins”, it’s at the other party’s expense, but if you follow these five basic rules, then you should mark yourself out from the crowd.

1. Clients want your full attention

Clients give us work, agree to our fees and pay our bills.  For that, they deserve our full, undivided attention when they need it; when they call you, they don’t want to be made to feel as if they are interrupting something more important, asking stupid questions or being a nuisance.

While they know that you can’t always be available whenever they want to talk, they do expect that you will return their calls or e-mails within (a maximum of) 24 hours and that when you do make contact, you will not be rushing to catch a train, shopping at Sainsbury’s or – heaven forbid – in a meeting with another client.

2. Clients want competence

Clients want results with the minimum of fuss and maximum peace of mind. That consultants know what they are doing and have professional credibility in their field seem obvious foundations for a successful project, but they are not always present. The more knowledgeable and proactive a consultant proves to be, the more satisfied the client is. Dissatisfied clients believe they have done their consultants’ work for them

3. Clients want value 

Clients want to know what exactly they are getting for their money. You may not always be able to guarantee your fees are the lowest, but you should be able to guarantee that they are the fairest, because of the “added value” that you supply and the positive impact that you have on their business.

Where clients or consultants do attempt to quantify return on investment, they tend to look at the overall project and not specifically at the input of consultant. The business case should include the benefits of the project as a whole as well as the impact of positive interventions by the consultant broken down into checklists, tables and charts.

 4. Clients want to know what you do

Most consultants, and indeed service providers in general, struggle to describe their services in precise terms. The more intangible the project, the more difficult it is. Adjectives such as “superior”, “excellent” or “outstanding” are meaningless and serve no useful purpose when describing what you do.

If the client is hiring you for several months, or even years, you should include regular benchmarks in your proposal, so that both sides can check progress.  You may need to re-calculate the time you originally estimated, or you may have discovered something else that needs to be addressed before you can continue the project. These should act as safeguards for both sides.

5. Clients want guarantees 

Clients don’t want to pay out a lot of money without some sort of guarantee, if not for outcomes, then for the delivery of project milestones or deadlines. This is not as career limiting as it might sound.

Most consultants work under a tacit guarantee anyway. If you have a legitimately unhappy client, with a genuine grievance, then you will try and put things right by doing the work again or doing some additional work for free.  Include dispute resolution in your proposal and make it a positive selling point.

About the author

Sara Paine is an independent PR consultant, based just outside London, who provides PR strategic insight and hands-on support for technology and business services companies all over the UK and beyond.

Author Details

Sara Paine

Verona PR and Marketing

T: 01474 361008 E: sara@verona-pr.com