Great service is what we strive for at StrategiQ. In our culture of transparency, we make sure to invest in external experts to facilitate conversations that can validate and improve how we work.
In our recent September strategy conference, author and agency guru, Chantell Glenville, took on the questions from the StrategiQ panel – and came up with these gems for managing those all-important client/agency relationships.
So, Chantell – why do clients use agencies, anyway?
“Ultimately, clients hire you to be brilliant. To make their lives easier. So if you make their lives harder, they’ll go somewhere else. The process and how it’s managed needs to be seamless – when it’s done well, you don’t even notice. If you’re an account manager, caught in an endless cycle of delivery, then it can be hard to see which way is up. Here are some things that you can be doing right now to improve your client relationships.”
Be present. If you’re working on a strategy, then it’s critical to be at the table early. Post pandemic, we can shift from Zoom and be there in person – no excuses.
Go undercover. Understand how clients work, day to day. Spend time in your clients’ workspaces. Operating in that space will allow you to immerse yourself in their world and understand their pain points better.
Be realistic, taking time to understand their internal processes. What path do approvals go down? Are changes worked on by a team, or does one person have ultimate signoff? Knowing these things will help both sides work together effectively.
Be warm and empathetic. You want to be in this for the long game, so in time you will feel comfortable asking clients how that wedding or marathon went. There will be bumps in the road so you need to gain trust to get you through those times. Ultimately: it’s harder to be an asshole to someone that you like.
Be strategic. There’s so much competition out there for service providers. But service providers are easy to replace, and you may find yourself in a race to the bottom to be the cheapest.
Be an equal partner. Often, the client will request a change or present an idea that really doesn’t sit well with you. Instead of rejecting the idea, probe the client to find out what it is they are trying to achieve. If you have a better way to achieve the end goal, say so – and make sure to explain why.
Own your mistakes. Yes, mistakes happen, but own them ahead of time. If you can see that things are about to go down, give the client as much warning as possible and let them know what you’re doing to smooth things over.
Be accountable for the work of others. If you’re involved, then you need to get involved! If you use someone else’s brand book, then question things you’re unsure of. And that applies to people within the agency too – you’re a team. Don’t use your team as a scapegoat. It not only makes you look unprofessional but creates really bad friction on your side.
Be brave. Doing everything that the client asks, without questioning, is the fast track to crap work. Remind yourself: they hired you to ask questions, to offer expertise. Ultimately, it takes a team to get the best outcome.
Manage expectations – this is particularly important when you’re up against a deadline. Figure out how you’re going to collaborate, who needs to be involved, and how you’re going to manage any last-minute changes. Because no-one wants to be the last one in the office on a Friday night!
Lie. Ever. You will get found out.
Neglect detail. Lack of attention to detail can make or break your client relationship. Things like extra spaces in body text or some misaligned element of the brandbook can give clients cause to worry – and they may eventually use it as ammo should they wish to end the partnership. It’s not about clients being fussy. It’s about them having to check your homework – and they sure ain’t got time for that.
Hide behind email. Account handlers, particularly juniors, are often told to use email as a kind of audit trail. Email has its place, of course, but if things are getting fractious – get on the phone. Effective use of communication is key.
Overlook the tech. It might seem pretty boring to discuss daily comms when you’re in the thick of web page designs, but it’s really important to understand how clients prefer to communicate day to day. Some love nothing better than jumping on a video call, whereas others prefer email. Some like a quick WhatsApp, and others still like a combination of all these methods.
Liked this? Check out the StrategiQ strategy conference 2022 article for more information about what we got up to.
About Chantell Glenville
Chantell is the international best-selling author of “What Clients Really Want (And The S**t That Drives Them Crazy)” – the first ever book on how to create great client/agency relationships written by an ex-client.
She has worked at some of the world’s best creative communication agencies, including AMV, BBDO, VCCP and Dare, and also worked client side with Vodafone in 2014.
Her most recent venture is as MD for talent agency Sixteenth, working with brands like Nike, Vice, ASOS, Spotify and the BBC to pair talented creators with brands across Beauty, Activism, Education, Fitness and Parenting to name just a few.