Good Account Manager, Bad Account Manager

Nov 2, 2018 6 min read
Steve Carrigan

Written by 

Steve Carrigan
Chief Executive Officer at ABC Legal Services. Steve got his start in the industry in 1983 and by working his way through college as a messenger and process server at ABC Legal. Steve helped launch ABC Legal’s successful PFI brand in 1994 and has played a significant role in growing annual revenues of $12M in 2001 to more than $100M in 2019.

Good Account Managers know the business inside and out, because mostly, they have worked most or all of it from the ground up.  Some good Account Managers didn’t work from the ground up, but were curious enough to go visit those departments, ask questions, (sometimes to the point of being annoying) and learned how things work.  Good Account Managers are CEO of their accounts and assigned customers. They act like business owners and they measure their success by the success of their customer’s experience.

Bad Account Managers sometimes got hired in without working elsewhere in the business first. Their manager failed to realize this and to appropriately send them on rotations to go work in other departments and learn some of the basic building blocks to understand how things get done and who can help them solve problems. This is obviously not the bad account manager’s fault. However none of us can remain a victim of circumstance forever.  Time to ask for a rotation for perspective, context and on-the-job training…something all good employees and all effective people tend to do- they don’t wait, they ask for what they need to be successful.

Good Account Managers understand the basics of legal proceedings and how courts work. They know the roles of lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries, law firm office managers, court clerks, notaries, court runners and process servers.  Good account managers familiarize themselves with industry jargon and learn how to adapt their communication from internal to external. For example, GAMs understand that “server” is a common internal term, but externally, “Process Server” is a clearer term.  Similarly,  “affiliate”  which refers to a partner in a remote part of the state, is often used internally but a Good Account Manager would use the term “our process server” when speaking to a customer.

Good Account Managers set up monthly reviews with all of their largest, say Top 10 customers and work with IT to get good performance data, reporting and graphs accurately displaying the work we do for them.  Good Account Managers also send weekly exception reports of open Action Items and remind customers to update those and/or offer to update them for them to keep their cases moving.  Bad Account Managers just sit back and hope the customers ask us for a review. Bad Account Managers rarely remind their customers or fail to train them on how to manage Action Items and just whine about how disorganized and pathetic their customers are to not be tending to their cases.  But what Bad Account Managers don’t realize is that if the customer fails, we fail too.

Good Account Managers know where to go to get help and are never afraid to ask for it.  This is a flat and open organization, so Good Account Managers walk directly into Steve Carrigan or Tim Dinehart’s office (or by phone) with suggestions and insights into the obvious things that can be fixed.  Bad Account Managers say that Steve and Tim are unapproachable and assume won’t care or do anything to fix their issues because they have heard that we haven’t in the past, when in reality it’s probable that nobody has ever brought up those issues before at all because it’s sometimes easier to do nothing and harder to do the right thing. Good Account Managers never miss a chance to root out problems and expose them for what they really are- a huge opportunity for improvement, regardless of what may be involved.

Good Account Managers respond to emails and phone calls quickly even if they don’t have the answer. Good Account Managers call process servers or office managers to get answers fast. Even on things they know nothing about, since they see it as a learning opportunity.  Bad Account Managers forward emails and tickets and play kick-the-can with both.  Bad Account Managers say, “nobody trained me on that”, “this is not my responsibility”, or “I don’t know how to handle that”.  Good Account Managers take massive action to overcome any experience or training deficiencies, and in the process become rising superstars.  Bad Account Managers frog in the pot and everyone gets cooked.

Good Account Managers understand when to use a phone call and when to use email.  Good Account Managers understand that phone calls can provide immediate answers.  Good Account Managers also understand that email can be very dangerous for delivering bad news and that tone and attitude can be taken out of context and misinterpreted in email.  Bad Account Managers use email for everything and put in lots of tickets; this saves them time, but creates extra work for others and more work overall.

Good Account Managers find common tickets and issues and help discover their root cause. Sometimes on their own, but usually by enlisting others who are subject matter experts where these various root causes live. They build relationships with all people but especially those people that can help them fix upstream issues that wind up in account management.  Bad Account Managers just keep fixing the same tickets and re-live the same day over and over like Bill Murrary’s character in Ground Hog Day.  Bad Account Managers justify they are doing real work, when in reality it’s often busy work that adds no real value to the company, their careers, or the customer experience.

Good Account Managers get to know their customers personally and build a relationship, because it’s way more fun and it’s an effective way to do business.  Good Account Managers understand that Federated Law Group doesn’t do business with ABC Legal.  Nick Rojo, Aaron Cushman, Marla Pica, Brian Manno and 25 or so other people at FLG do business with Steve Carrigan, Kirsten Honeycutt, Tyler Schuldt, and like 25 other people at ABC Legal.

Good Account Managers don’t let IT backlogs stand in the way of their success, they McGiver it, finding workarounds and enlisting others to help them invent simpler solutions. Bad Account Managers blame unresolved IT tickets for nearly all of their problems and inability to create a great customer experience.  Bad Account Managers require the software to do backflips in order to manage fulfillment effectively.

Good Account Managers motivate, cajole, inspire, and people-skill process servers and partners- even those they have never met before-into completing customer orders.  In the process of creating raving loyal customers, they also create raving loyal process servers.  Good Account Managers understand that process servers are sometimes lonely driving around and simply want a phone pal or pen pal to play with, but Good Account Managers don’t let that process server absorb all their time. Bad Account Managers tend to treat the process server in a demanding or condescending way that immediately disenfranchises the process server and makes our job even harder or they spend all day jabbering with the process server offering free mental health services while the customer is on hold.

Good Account Managers respond to customers, partners and colleagues timely. They organize and plan their day, set measurable goals and hit them. Bad Account Managers forget to respond, or don’t follow through because they lack the discipline to be organized and accountable to their customers and their team.  Bad Account managers clock-in, do whatever comes at them first or loudest, rather than prioritizing their day by importance, on their heels all day, they finally clock-out-Groundhog day.

Good Account Managers aspire to bigger things and realize this job is really good training and a platform to learn how to run a team or a business.  Good Account Managers realize that nothing easy is really worth doing anyway. Communication, process improvement, problem-solving and people-skilling both customers and partners along a legal tightrope requires a diverse set of skills that are rare to find in one individual, but they can all be built and learned.

Bad Account Managers don’t see the pathway through and the rare combo of skills they are building. They just want to be told what to do, put on their headphones and check social media on their smart phone.

Neither is pre-ordained, both are a choice.

Steve Carrigan

Written by 

Steve Carrigan
Chief Executive Officer at ABC Legal Services. Steve got his start in the industry in 1983 and by working his way through college as a messenger and process server at ABC Legal. Steve helped launch ABC Legal’s successful PFI brand in 1994 and has played a significant role in growing annual revenues of $12M in 2001 to more than $100M in 2019.

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