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SmartCEO
by Joyce Bosc | SmartCEO

It’s called a sense of urgency. If you’re in the client service business, you may already recognize the importance of doing business with a sense of urgency – especially in a down economy. If not, then it’s time for a wakeup call.

In retail, Nordstrom raised the bar for department store customer service. In the hotel business, Four Seasons is known for going the extra mile to make guests happy.

In retail, Nordstrom raised the bar for department store customer service. In the hotel business, Four Seasons is known for going the extra mile to make guests happy.

In our Web-driven society, people are multitasking like never before, and they are cramming more productivity into less time. Customers need exceptional service and they need it exceptionally fast. When it comes to customer retention in the business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) marketplaces, your responsiveness is often the deciding factor for success.

In our Web-driven society, people are busier than ever before, and they are cramming more into less time. Customers want exceptional service, and they want it exceptionally fast. When it comes to customer retention in the business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) marketplaces, responsiveness is often the deciding factor.

Sense of Urgency and Branding

Sense of urgency can be a powerful branding tool. That’s what we’ve discovered at Boscobel Marketing Communications, the branding and public relations firm I’ve owned and operated in Silver Spring, Md. for more than 30 years

At Boscobel, sense of urgency is deeply engrained in the branding fabric of our business. Over 25 years ago, we went through an internal branding process aimed at defining the company’s key personality traits. We asked our employees, clients and consultants, “Thinking of Boscobel as a person, rather than as a business, what one word would you use to describe us?”  Based on the feedback we received, we came up with the five attributes of our brand:  passionate, creative, thorough, responsive and fun.
Fast-forward to the year 2000. Thanks to new efficiencies created by the World Wide Web, potential clients had discovered how get a lot more (results) for a lot less (money). Responsiveness had taken on much more importance as a differentiator in B2B and B2G markets.

Seizing this brand building opportunity, we used the “responsive” attribute of our brand as the platform for a new approach to client service called Sense of Urgency Service (SOUS). The SOUS approach, in a nutshell, requires that we treat every client project like a hot potato.

SOUS starts with being responsive – make that uber-responsive. One of the operating principles of SOUS is that no client will ever be kept waiting to hear from us. Whether a client is large or small, somebody from our team must respond to a client’s phone or e-mail request within the hour. Typically, response times are less than 15 minutes. If we don’t have the answer, we get back to the customer within the prescribed one-hour window letting them know we’re on it and when we will have the information they need.

But SOUS goes deeper than response times. It means taking on your client’s priorities – their goals, their deadlines, their metrics – and making them your own. It means moving quickly and decisively to meet your client’s needs, and keeping them updated on every move you make – so the client never has to ask you what is going on.

Always Ahead of the Game

In the long run, SOUS requires a proactive approach to every phase of the client relationship. In sports, it’s sometimes said that you don’t want to be where the ball is – you need to be where the ball is going.

Likewise in a service business, you should aim for where your client is going to be. For instance, if you know that your client has a status meeting with his or her boss on a certain day of the week, you give them an update on your activities the day before. And when something goes wrong, you inform the client immediately instead of sitting on the problem and hoping nobody notices.

Here’s a quick PR case study. Our client’s name was misspelled in a major publication. To make matters worse, there were two incorrect spellings. Fortunately, our PR team was watching for this article. Within minutes after it appeared, the team leader alerted the client.

But we didn’t just bring the client a problem. We also brought a solution – how we were going to approach the editor to point out the error, arrange for a correction item to appear in the next issue and leverage the situation to produce future coverage. Then we stayed on top of things and gave the client frequent updates on our progress. At no time did the client have to come to us and say, “What’s going on?”

Thanks to the SOUS approach, we’re able to put ourselves in our clients’ shoes. Whether there’s a problem to be solved or good news to share, we want our clients to be prepared for that next impromptu meeting with the boss in the hallway.

Pass the Hot Potatoes

When all is said and done, Boscobel has won business over the years by being more responsive and more proactive than the other guys. By engraining these two traits into our branding DNA, we’ve been able to attract and hold clients whether the economy is up or down.

We love it when a customer tells us, “You’re so responsive that we feel like we’re your only client.”  For a client service company committed to doing business with a sense of urgency, it doesn’t get any better than that!

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Joyce Bosc is president and CEO of Boscobel Marketing Communications, Inc., an award-winning PR and marketing firm based in Silver Spring, Md.