Q&A: Ray Jenkin on The Future Of Client Relationship Management

Ray Jenkin
Brass Cat Consulting

Published September 7, 2022

What challenges have you seen emerge as client relationships are managed primarily through digital channels?

There’s definitely a lack of shared knowledge across client success teams. For example, information about a client’s call with one member of the team might be poorly captured and disseminated to colleagues.

Similarly, the escalation of client issues is often mismanaged. Client success (CS) teams often capture an issue in Slack and assume that’s an escalation - it’s not! In digital channels, escalations are increasingly handled in the wrong channel, leading to delays or unresolved issues.

Ultimately, there are too many comms platforms, leading to a lack of meaningful integration. Useful client information is not easily surfaced and key actions for clients get lost in the jungle of platforms.

In your experience, what are the pitfalls that stop teams from providing a great client service?

Firstly, assuming that knowledge about a client interaction is shared and understood by other members of the team. Everyone has to be on the same page, and getting them there takes time.

At the moment, I’m noticing a lack of a clear process for client meetings. From prep to post-client contact, there should be defined stages and action points across the client journey. I find that summarizing and clarifying clients’ needs and expectations post-interaction can save a ton of time and pain, and preparing properly prior to client interactions can make all the difference.

Similarly, there’s a lack of client-centric KPIs measured at both team and individual levels, from the frequency of contact with clients or quality contact with key stakeholders through to client feedback sessions and net promoter scores. As the author Peter Drucker said, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it".

Finally, treating clients as a homogenous group is a huge pitfall. Understanding each client as a unique individual will help you serve them to the best of your ability.

In your experience, what are some best practices for teams that manage client relationships?

Have a solid staff onboarding process to ensure expectations are clear from the get-go. The team should fully understand and embrace the process and competencies of your CS function.

Create checklists and templates for all major client interactions, including meetings, escalations and feedback.

Too many people rush into assuming what a client wants or needs rather than clarifying this with them. Training a CS team to ask open- and close-ended questions during a client interaction, and building this into processes, can go a long way.

How would you like to see AI solutions advance relationship management and how companies optimise client retention and growth?

AI could really help with active listening and summarizing. Humans miss things in a call that a machine could pick up and highlight. For example, a CS person might overlook a client using the word “concerned” three times in a call. AI could capture and highlight this to the CS team.

AI can also route key actions and information to relevant people and platforms. This seems to be an obvious place where AI can reduce laborious and time-consuming work replicating and attributing information.

Similarly, AI could create meeting prompts, to remind CS teams of their key goals during a client interaction.

How can you make an organisation more client-centric so that all teams are vested in client results?

Start with incentives, metrics and goals. Are all teams measured and financially incentivized, to some extent, by client-centric goals and targets? Are your business goals client-focused?

Ensure you interview with client-centric competencies in mind and continue the pattern from there. During onboarding for all staff, put a strong focus on who your clients are, what they want from you, and what the company's expectations are on addressing those needs. All staff should either sit in on or engage with clients as part of their onboarding.

It’s vital to look at how client-centric the management function is and address this as early as you can. Client centricity at the leadership level bleeds into teams quickly, so what you do matters.

Client Success teams are notoriously busy; managing lots of clients with lots of work streams and interacting with lots of different teams. How do you keep your team from burning out?

Reduce complexity wherever you can. Provide clear processes and be open to adjusting them based on CS team feedback.

Be thoughtful and considered in the systems you use, what their purpose is, and how teams will use them. For example, if management want some data and metrics from a CRM system, but it adds an unnecessary burden on the people collecting and inputting it, then it may not be worth the cost. Consider what’s nice to have versus what’s critical to operations. Once you scale back, you can more clearly see what’s truly critical.

Provide good training on delegation for your CS teams. Junior CS people often feel the need to “do it all”. By teaching team members early and often about effective delegation you can save staff a lot of hassle and overwork.

Ensure you have metrics to measure and flag productivity and staff well-being, so that you catch areas of concern early and address the specific needs of people under strain.

Lastly, for anyone starting a career in Client Success, what would be your advice to them?

Be truly client-focused! it sounds obvious but it's the greatest pitfall I have seen with CS people.

Many CS people are more focused on internal processes and comms than on clients’ needs and wants. Really putting yourself in the shoes of the client and thinking about what their job is, what pressures they face, and what makes them look great in their businesses, allows you to advocate better within your own organisation.