A client’s experience begins as soon as soon as he or she walks into your place of business, says Joanne Ferguson, president of Advisor Pathways Inc. in Toronto.

Everything the client sees or hears contributes to that experience. So, maintaining a professional environment is as important to good client service as a well-planned review meeting or keeping in touch throughout the year.

Clients should enter your office feeling confident about your expertise and professionalism — and not be distracted by a messy workspace or arguing team members.

Here are five ways to make your office a professional setting:

1. Have team members welcome clients
When possible, have a visiting client greeted by a team member he or she doesn’t know very well, Ferguson suggests.
You should take every opportunity to introduce team members to your clients, Ferguson says. This growing familiarity will make your client feel more comfortable about working with you and your team.
Perhaps it is your custom to welcome clients yourself because your administrative assistant is often busy organizing files. Ask your assistant to greet visiting clients, so your clients will get to know your assistant as well.
Your team member can approach the client, introduce himself or herself and say, “I haven’t met you, but I wanted to say hello. It’s wonderful to put a face to a name.”

2. Begin new relationships formally
Make sure you and your staff address relatively new clients — or those with whom you have not yet developed a close relationship — as Mr. or Mrs. Smith (and not “Jim” or “Sarah”).
If the client asks that his or her first name be used, then oblige.

3. Keep office spaces tidy
Any area that can be seen by your client must be kept clean and tidy. Avoid clutter in waiting areas and offices and keep food out of sight.
Make sure any decorative touches are appropriate and tasteful, or else they will detract from the ambience you are trying to create.
Plants and flowers won’t spruce up the space if they’re dead. Have some art on the walls? Don’t let a collection of dust distract clients from the beautiful images.

4. Keep your “team face” on
If a client has pointed out an error or feels slighted by an interaction with a team member, do not single that person out publicly.
“It’s really important to help each other and support each other when you’re in a client meeting,” Ferguson says. “And do not point out mistakes.”
Speak to the employee privately when the client has left.

5. Be discreet
Talk about clients only among your team members and in a closed office, Ferguson says.
Even vague conversations about business matters should be kept out of public spaces, as you never know who’s nearby.
You could be on the elevator heading to your office to meet a new client when you mention to a colleague that you would rather be watching the baseball game. For all you know, that new client could be on the elevator with you.

This is the final instalment in a three-part series on maintaining your professionalism.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Sept. 18, 2014.