Wisdom: Lost, Then Found

The moral of this story: sometimes wisdom hits you at the most unexpected times.

A few weeks ago, at the ripe old age of not-a-teenager-anymore, I had all four wisdom teeth removed.  True story: I was scheduled to have the procedure done on September 12, 2001.  For obvious reasons, that didn’t happen, and I waited 11 years to make another appointment.  This experience was grueling, but surprisingly reinforced for me a few lessons about client service.  Because in this case, I was the “client” and had the pleasure of receiving some top-notch service.  I walked away with swollen cheeks, and the following reminders:

Trust is earned, over time.
This lesson was simple.  I trust my dentist.  So when he referred me to his surgeon of choice, I followed his counsel, and it paid off.  He had been briefed on my situation, was prepared with a diagnosis and a plan and even knew a few things about my history to make me feel welcome from our first meeting.  He gave me confidence from the first meeting, and that confidence grew throughout the process.  When I asked questions, he gave me his professional opinion, and when he didn’t have one, he committed to doing a little research to get it.  It’s the same in any relationship between an agency and a client, isn’t it?  We owe it to our clients to do our homework about their situation and about their business.  We owe it to them to be generous with our counsel and our actions – to focus on doing, not just talking.  To be forthright and candid, always.  And to try, with each encounter, to earn the trust they place in us as their partner.

Sometimes, talking should trump texting.
As I was leaving the surgeon’s office, he handed me a card with his cell phone number and personal email address and said, “Call me first, because I’ll always take your call.”  And he did.  In the days to follow, I had a few questions – some valid, some based on irrational fears and some based on a desire to eat more than pudding – but when I called, he answered and he treated me like a priority.  So in a world where digital advances and channels have powered the accessibility and sharing of information in real time, we can’t forget how empowering it can be to have an conversation – with clients, or anyone else.  Actual conversations can clarify, create efficiencies or even just demonstrate that you care enough to give the gift of your time.  I’m going to think about that the next time I have the choice to talk with a client rather than just type to one.

We remember people, not procedures.
Will I remember the instruments he used?  No.  Will I remember the name of the anesthesia he pumped into me?  No.  Will I remember the process he followed to do his job?  No.  That was all important, of course, but what I’ll remember – and share when I recommend him to others – is the personal attention he showed me, and the personality he and his staff brought to each encounter.  (Like when he actually changed the playlist to suit my own musical tastes rather than his own – even though I’d be knocked out the entire time.)  My lesson learned here is that we should spend an appropriate amount of time talking about “how” we deliver great service, but we really need to focus on is the “why” behind the work, and the “what” it will deliver.  That’s what clients deserve.

Ketchum CEO Mike Doyle leads one of the world’s top communications consultancies, helping companies tell their stories, connect with the people they care about most and use communications to inspire action. Mike has helped clients launch products and services, merge or acquire new companies, navigate issues and crises and determine their purpose in an increasingly competitive, connected and consumer-empowered global society. He is the executive sponsor for Omnicom’s global OPEN Pride employee resource group and serves on the global Board of Directors for GLAAD, the world’s leading organization dedicated to accelerating acceptance for the LGBTQ community. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Muhlenberg College, Mike splits his time between New York City, Asbury Park, New Jersey, and on the road, serving Ketchum’s extraordinary colleagues and clients.