August 4, 2021

It was 2.00am, and I was wide awake. I had just inked a deal with a client for an around-the-world training programme but couldn’t sleep. The deal was fine. Everyone agreed. But I had this nagging feeling that my client was not completely happy.

You see, two weeks earlier when my client and I were having a final conversation about the design of the programme, she made one additional ask. It was high-risk from my perspective because it put some of my intellectual property at risk. I proposed a solution which would require one additional clause to our contract. She felt the clause was reasonable. So, we sent the language over to the client’s legal team.

Legal and I had a great conversation. Their lawyer affirmed that both my concern and our proposal were legitimate. In fact, the lawyer said, “Mike, if I were in your shoes, I would insist on the same clause you’ve proposed. But there’s just no way we can sign it. Our company policy won’t allow me.”

We were at a stalemate. Everyone was taking the high road. Everyone was demonstrating excellent empathy to understand the other party’s point of view. Unfortunately, there just seemed to be no way to move forward with my client’s last request. Since the programme was scheduled to launch in less than a week, we agreed to move forward and signed the contract without incorporating that last request.

But less than 48 hours later, I could not sleep. We had all agreed to the plan. The ink was dry. There was absolutely no reason for me to be wide awake at 2 in the morning thinking about it any further…except that I couldn’t shake the thought of being in my client’s shoes. She was putting her name on this thing. And we both knew that, due to the legal hiccup, the design was less than what we felt would have been best for her company.

I wrestled with the options again trying to come up with something new. After half an hour of mental gymnastics, the light bulb came on. My client was based on the other side of the world, so I knew she would be awake. I emailed her my idea. Within an hour we agreed to a new approach which would make her last-minute request possible. I promised to write to Legal in the morning to have the new changes added to the contract. We signed the revised deal a few hours later, and the programme started the following Monday.

What is my point with this story?

When we talk about client servicing, we often talk about tactical things – the “how-tos” of serving a client. I want to suggest that there is something deeper that transcends all of it – empathy for our clients – really putting ourselves in their shoes.

There is no doubt business is business. I’m not suggesting that we “give away the house” or take unnecessary risks that are not reasonably protected. We owe our employers, shareholders and co-workers our best. But, many times, it doesn’t hurt us to put ourselves in our client’s shoes and really try to feel the world from their perspective.

Do you have a client you are wrestling with?

Might there be a solution that can only be seen by pausing to spend a few minutes feeling what it is like to be in your client’s shoes?

That, I would suggest, is the true heart of client servicing.

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