Earlier this week my spouse and I had an opportunity to experience the other side.
A year ago I departed from a career spanning over two decades in the financial services industry. For much of that time my spouse was my part-time assistant.
As anyone dealing with clients knows, just about every large business exists in a very competitive environment, so there are survival and growth incentives for not only providing excellent service to keep clients happy, but also going beyond the basics with what we are commonly called ‘SOS’ activities.
In this context, ‘SOS’ is an acronym for Suspension of Self. This means making extra effort to personalize and deepen client relationships. Such efforts can include phoning clients for their birth days, sending gifts for special occasions, and inviting them to special events with pre-paid tickets. (Not doing any of these things can result in one’s practice attaining a more dire version of ‘SOS’.)
The company for which I worked has for several years sponsored an annual comedy tour in the fall. From the start I was a participant by inviting clients, especially couples. There were consultants who didn’t participate, sometimes to save money, sometimes because of focusing on other events. I always had some clients go. Given the logistics and our net cost, the ticket allocation was handled as efficiently as possible. To me, this also meant appearing at the reception for some schmoozing.
Until this year, the impetus was on me to proactively circulate and speak with my clients. This time, we were the clients. It was a funny feeling to be attending the same event but being on the other side of the ‘SOS’ relationship. My own consultant wasn’t there, but I did have the chance to interact with some former colleagues. Due to my status, discussions were more along the lines of an ‘old home week’ than as a client per se. It did give me a more objective perspective in watching other consultants huddling with their clients, noting the degrees to which coddling behaviours were exhibited.
Under the circumstances, the perspective from the other side was somewhat liberating, and not only for me. The latter was especially so in a talk with a former manager, who let his guard down more in some of his comments than I’d been witness to before.
When one’s status has changed where that of former colleagues’ hasn’t, there are altered nuances in the patterns of the playing surface.