Part 3: What in the World is a CE?

Client Experience Team / 6th August 2021 / Comment / Client Experience

Safety Needs


A behind-the-scenes look at the Wheelhouse DMG Client Experience experience


Once physiological needs have been met in an office setting (see our Physiological CE blog post), addressing safety needs (see our post on Maslow’s Hierarchy) becomes our primary focus.


In an agency context, we view safety as a desire for confidence that the work we do will be orderly and predictable. Our clients also are seeking confidence that our work can be relied upon to deliver an excellent outcome for them.


Imagine craving something festive and trendy at the new café where you’ve become a regular. The barista says they have just the thing for you, and the next thing you know they’ve whipped up a classic pumpkin spice latte, but with a milk replacement – soy. Your excitement immediately fades.  You’re allergic to soy. In their enthusiasm to share something they believed you’d love, the barista made a false assumption. Now you’re in a position of having to disappoint the barista by handing back the drink, and it’s awkward. Their intention was good, but they could have avoided the problem by telling you they would like you to try something new and asking whether you had any food restrictions.


Tackling a change upfront creates space for honest conversation which builds confidence. It tells the client that you are considering their needs with logic and information which helps them to feel safe. In the scenario above, a policy of checking on food sensitivities could have reinforced a foundation of trust.


As Client Experience Managers (CEs) we come in contact with our clients in a variety of ways. We may see them physically at one of our offices. We may connect with them virtually, through Zoom or a Microsoft Teams meeting. Or we may communicate with them sans cameras, through e-mail, instant messaging, social media, or a phone call. Because our interactions are so varied, it is important to our team to alleviate any potential feelings of insecurity for our clients in every way we communicate. Here are a few of the things we consider before each client interaction:


  • In the Office
    • Is our space inclusive for those with disabilities?
    • Have we considered allergies when selecting the food to be served?
    • Are we aware of olfactory sensitivities and have we limited strong scents?
  • Virtually
    • Have we password protected our online meetings?
    • Have we prepared to announce or introduce each team member who joins the call?
    • Are we conscientious about regularly pausing to allow space for client comments and questions?
    • Have we scheduled the meeting to allow a break between this and what likely will be another virtual meeting immediately following ours?
  • Project Delivery
    • Have we instilled confidence through our actions and words?
    • Have we taken into account any internal political sensitivities?
    • Are we protecting and promoting our client contact’s standing and authority within their organization?
    • Is the quality and timing of our deliverables consistently excellent?


Safety + COVID (from a client perspective):

Uncertainty can bring out stress and anxiety- both things that can threaten our feeling of safety. At Wheelhouse, we define our relationships with all of our clients as partnerships- we don’t abandon ship when things get tough. And tough topics may come in the form of client issues, community issues, personal issues, or global issues. There is no end to the circumstances that can affect how well we work. It’s easy (& human) to lean into reactive tendencies as our emotions are heightened while we adapt and process everything going on. Settling into a new normal at work and with clients is also new territory to figure out. Just as we personally remind ourselves to take a step back and put things into perspective, we must extend the same patience and empathy with our clients.


This can show up in many different ways, some as tactical as pivoting to a completely new strategy, and some as simple as having vulnerable conversations acknowledging the reality of things. Even when everything is uncertain, you can control the energy and intention you bring to conversations. Consciously pause before jumping in to offer suggestions. A break in conversation gives you time to digest what has been said and be more intentional in how you reply. Follow discussions up with open questions and let your co-workers or clients have the opportunity to look deeper. Plan these actions ahead of any meeting so that they come naturally. Now more than ever, remind yourself of how you’re showing up.


Stewardship, flexibility, and reassurance can go a long way in times like these. And constantly remind yourself, just as you’re processing everything in waves that ebb and flow, so are our clients. We’re all human.



When safety needs are not met, stress occurs. This hampers trust, communication, and effective relations. CEs operate as the hospitality ambassadors for Wheelhouse DMG. Considering how each level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can positively or adversely affect communication with a client has allowed us to provide effective underpinnings for successful client experiences and relationships


By Client Experience Team