The role of communication agencies is not to educate the client.

When several communication consultants get together in private, they often end up repeating the phrase: “we have to educate the client“. It is usually uttered with bitterness, when we have the feeling that we are not understood or not allowed to develop our role as communication experts and consultants. It is also expressed when we feel that customer impulses take precedence over strategy. However, the approach we need to take is quite different. No, I don’t think we should educate the customer.

Why not? Here are a few reasons:

1. It implies a paternalistic attitude

The expression “educate the customer” is based on the idea that the customer does not know what he/she wants or needs, and that the company has a responsibility to teach him/her. This attitude can be perceived as arrogant and condescending by clients, who may feel belittled or infantilised. In fact, many clients come from the same communications consultancy background and therefore have good grounds for claiming that they know what they need. In other cases, they may come from a different background, but their knowledge of the business provides them with the necessary intuition. Let us remember that we often know what we want when we are taught what we don’t like; none of us is impervious to that.

2. Ignores Customer Needs

Instead of focusing on the client’s needs and expectations, the expression “you have to educate the client” focuses on the agency’s agenda. This can lead to the company trying to sell products or services that are not suitable for the customer, or that do not meet the customer’s real needs. It is important, therefore, to listen, value, learn and contribute according to what the client transmits to us.

3. Creates a barrier between the company and the customer

Instead of fostering an open and collaborative relationship, a paternalistic attitude can generate distrust and resentment in the customer. Sometimes, when one claims to be absolutely right and does not accept an opposing position, conflict arises. We must be more open and understand that our position, as consultants, is based on recommendation based on experience and knowledge, but not on imposition. It is another matter to accept positions contrary to our values and principles, but that is a separate issue.

4. It is an Ineffective Strategy

In the information age, customers have access to a wealth of information about products and services. Attempting to “educate” them through patronising or condescending messages is not only ineffective, but can also be counterproductive.

The alternative to client education: Accompanying the client

Instead of “educating” the client, agencies should focus on:

  • Understanding the client’s needs. Listen carefully to understand their needs, expectations and pain points.
  • Provide useful and relevant information. Provide the customer with clear, accurate and relevant information about your products and services and the solutions we propose for them through communication and marketing.
  • Building a relationship of trust. Foster an open and honest relationship with the client based on trust and mutual respect.
  • Providing exceptional customer service. To provide them with a positive and memorable experience.

Instead of educating, the important thing is to accompany. By aspiring to be part of the team, adding from our expert and external position, we will be much more useful, both in terms of being chosen and of extending the partnership successfully over time.

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