Advertising & Practical Thinking

The advertising profession is cold and cruel. The power of practical thinking is a perfect antidote.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Client Service

I have been in the advertising profession for over 23 years on the agency side and the last 15 as an independent consultant. One of my strengths, over the years and still today, is providing impeccable Client Service. My service philosophy is reaffirmed by a simple sentence I have used over the years to conclude all my client correspondence: Assuring you of my best attention at all times.

My definition of Client Service: Always look at the big picture first – fly at 37,000 feet above ground level and then make the descent. Provide the best possible thinking and effort. Anticipate Client’s needs and be pro-active. I am here to make a positive impact on the Client’s business, not win awards for my work. Make what I think and believe are the right recommendations. Spoil them with this brand of service that their dependence on me keeps growing.

The longevity of my client relationships is a testament to this philosophy.

And then, there have been times when I have gone way beyond the call of duty. For instance…

On a Saturday morning in 1977, my home phone rang at 7:30. It was Mr. RJ, one of my clients. “Did you watch the 10:00 PM news on Channel Three?” “No, Mr. J, I did not.” “The seventeen year-old boy who died in a motorcycle accident last evening was my son.” I was shocked and had no clue why he was calling me. After all, he had known me for only a few months.

He wanted me to have a song written and played at his son’s funeral on Monday afternoon. After expressing my deepest condolences (not really knowing what to say), I asked Mr. J if he could tell me something about his son. “He was a free spirit,” he responded and asked me to come over to his house for the wake later that morning. I had never been to a wake, and all I knew was that there was no weeping at an Irish wake.

Off I drove to Mr. J’s house. Over a hundred people, all with a drink in their hands, some solemn and others jovial. Yes, I did not see any tears, except in Mrs. J’s eyes. The parents of the late free spirit told me a little bit about their lost one. They said the visitation at the funeral home was at 5:00 PM on Sunday. I promised I would have a song for them on Sunday and asked them to come over to my office (very close to the funeral home) at 4:30.

I had about 30 hours to deliver on my promise and absolutely no idea how I would deliver.

In the past four years, I had written the lyrics to a few jingles working with a handful of musicians at a local recording studio. I called the owner of the studio, and he said he would open the studio for me in a few hours and call in a composer/guitarist/singer. Within 24 hours, I had written the lyrics, the musician composed the music and we had a song recorded.

At 4:30 PM on Sunday, Mr. and Mrs. J, their other children, and a few other family members were at my office. I played the tape for them. Till that moment, I had never seen a dozen people burst into sobs the way they did. They left after listening to the nearly three minute song a few more times. I cried after that.

The musician played the song at the funeral the next afternoon.

Promise made and promise delivered.

Epilogue. The musician and the studio sent me their bills. I just paid them and did not invoice Mr. J. How could I? Unfortunately, Mr. J died a few months later. A private aircraft he was piloting crashed. A few months later, the business changed hands and the relationship with Penta was terminated by the new CEO.


Blogger Gardenia said...

Thank you for putting that story into print. You've narrated this to me in the past, and you have narrated it here with such clarity and simplicity. It is so moving. I'm glad more people can share it now!

2:16 AM  
Blogger MoscowMax said...

Thank you for sharing your story.
Everything Bala does is with clarity and simplicity. Gracious Practical Thinking works... I look forward to us working together soon! M

6:04 PM  

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