The Art of Keeping an Orchid Alive
27 February 2017
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"Serving clients well should be simple, except it isn't. Solving problems should be easy, but almost never is." Robert Solomon

This very statement would have made me laugh at a few months ago. Coming from an in-house marketing team, servicing one client, to whom I could focus all by time, led me to believe client service was a piece of cake. In fact, I left the company with a 'can do' attitude that encouraged me to aim far higher than what I was genuinely equipped to handle.

Entering the world of 'branding' and joining the client service team on several high-profile accounts, quickly taught me that the true art of client service is the farthest thing from 'a piece of cake'. In fact, I'd more closely liken it to keeping an orchid alive full term, which for me is next to impossible. Syphoning emails, politely forwarding calls and occasionally pitching an internal 'morale campaign' were far from the multitude of skills required to nail this job.

Robert Solomon reinforced this realization in his book 'The Art of Client Service' when he laid down just a few 'must have' qualities of a great account person. 'Communication, written and oral, concision, clarity, style, organization, integrity and judgement' yes, these are givens, but then he really struck a chord: 'You must be good on your feet - in meetings, on the phone, in presentations, over dinner or wherever else you connect with clients and colleagues.

Communicating isn't just about what you say; it's about listening and really hearing what the other person says. It's about the ability to interpreted the subtext, not just the text of any communication. When it comes to skills, communication is the one every account executive must master.'

Communication. It seems this would be the easiest trick to master? How difficult could it be to pop a mail, pick up the phone or stroll over to a colleague's desk to discuss one thing or another? Difficult in fact! What I have come to realize in my short time in the industry is that when the pressure is on, and you are being pulled in every direction, somehow the one thing that will help the most, communicating, is often the one thing that you seem to neglect. Trying to hide the unraveling stress behind a tight-lipped smile is without a doubt where things begin to go wrong.

Solomon's emphasis on this one crucial point was certainly not misplaced. I cannot stress enough the value of maintaining honest, open communication with your colleagues, clients, suppliers or superiors. Whether it be to openly communicate the delays on a deadline or simply rely on another as a sounding board to your ideas or frustration. Gaining this 'earth shattering' insight prompted most certainly by reading, 'The Art of Client Service' has positively changed the way I interact in the work place and allowed me to understand that once verbalized, stress is not all that stressful.

By Tyla Baker
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