I've been at Adobe as a Consultant, servicing clients, for 7 years. But I've really been servicing clients my entire career for 12 years, both internal or external. Here's what's been most effective for me.
1. Clients won’t remember what you say but how you made them feel. This is my adaption from Maya Angelou’s infamous quote. I make it my mission that clients feel smart around me, that they can trust me with their baby (their website/program), and that they know I completely have their back. I do this by being extremely proactive, by regularly sharing thought-leadership (news articles, Adobe Index reports, case studies), and by applying #2.
2. Always be two steps ahead of your client. ABO = Always Be Over-prepared. For every meeting where they just show up, you prepare one hour for it. Write down your goals for the next year and quarter by quarter. Have a plan and a vision for the account and your client will appreciate it. Even if they tweak it and don’t follow it, they will always want you thinking ahead for them. If you find out your client likes AI, is thinking about mobile, may redesign the Cart, wants to be a data SME, whatever then you do research and come back each week/month/quarter with something new about that. You have insights across clients and industries that your client doesn’t have sitting at one company. They want to learn from you. You don’t already need to be an expert on the topic they are interested in, you just need to be two steps ahead.
3. The most difficult clients are the best clients. My most favorite clients are the ones that at one point I dreaded the most. Of course at the time I didn’t like getting screamed at by AMEX, or grilled with questions by Bank of America, or asked technical minutia by Duluth Trading, or clawing my way for a seat at the table with the GM at Verizon. But all of that challenged me to do better and up my game. I didn’t let myself get upset. I took the attitude “I will win here.” I used these accounts as an opportunity to hone something I didn’t know yet. I applied all my energy towards the thing that made that account hard and invariably over time it got resolved or became easy. See your difficult clients as your best opportunities. They will likely turn into your best relationships (I went to the engagement party of my AMEX client).
4. The most successful people are well-networked. At a large company it is critical to get out of your own team's bubble. You need to understand how the company truly operates and what each department does. You need to understand who to go to for help when you have a problem you can't solve. You need to be inspired and influenced by people outside your team's bubble. Never have lunch alone. Regularly meet new people by introducing yourself at the water cooler. Be the person that people go to for help. When you can see the full picture at your company, you are invaluable to your own team.
5. Be super on-point with the weekly routine. I find when I’m on-time and organized for the weekly calls, delivering something when I said I would, being over prepared, etc, that I build credit with the client. Over time that credit is stored in the bank and when something goes less-than-perfect (which eventually will happen), it’s not so bad when you have tons of credit. The client already trusts you and knows you are organized and considers that issue an anomaly. The more credit you have, the better it is when there is an error/escalation. Build that credit by doing it right through the delivery week over week when it’s easy.
6. Don’t forget this is fun. It’s easy to get caught up in the client’s tech issues, or hours concerns, or an overwhelming meeting schedule, or the thousand other things that add stress to an engagement. Shake that off because at the end of the day this is just about a person (client) who needs help (from you). That is all this is. You are helping a person or a team of people. If you bring a positive attitude, it will rub off on your clients. Your enthusiasm can actually change the tone of a meeting and a whole engagement.