Thanksgiving has just passed, but many agency leaders are still in the process of giving thanks. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, such thanks go largely to clients that have entrusted their firms with meaningful and profitable work.
It is surprising, therefore, when we speak to prospective clients who tell us their agency just stopped paying attention to them. How can this be when surely those same agencies worked long and hard – on spec – to win the client in the first place? The unfortunate reality is that firms can lose focus and simply fail to fulfill on the commitments they make when the client is new. They “park” a client on their roster and do what’s needed at a maintenance level without a lot of attention to detail or proactivity.Client care is more than meeting deadlines and placing stories. Click To Tweet
Some years ago, we convened a client panel and asked questions about what they need most from their agency. Panelists included current clients, some we wished were clients, and even one who left us for a larger firm. We learned a great deal from the discussion, but the one theme that resonated most was that clients need their agencies to help them think. There are always methods for doing the work, writing the copy, issuing the release and contacting the media, but the firms delivering the greatest value are those who can put themselves in the client’s shoes and consider what is strategic and best for the brand, the reputation, the competitive positioning and the enterprise as a whole.
Client care has to be more than meeting deadlines and placing stories in the press. It must arise from an organizational culture that places the client – not the agency – first. Sounds intuitive, but when agency promotion and new business competitions take precedence, the clients sadly fall down on the priority scale. Three attributes are central to a culture of client care:
All successful businesses must stand for something. This is especially true in the communication agency business. Today’s professionals seek meaning and purpose in their work. Making certain they understand that the company’s values place clients first and demonstrating that in the delivery of service fosters that sense of purpose. State it and live it.
We live in a world where the only thing that seems important is discussion on Twitter. Our President contributes to this perception. But there is a far larger and deeper body of knowledge and information communication pros must access. This requires reading – major media, trade publications relevant to our clients, books about their industries. We cannot provide the level off thinking and strategy clients require unless we are well informed beyond what is available on social media.
To say a communications agency must communicate seems unnecessary, but prospective clients tell us they rarely hear from their agency unless they – the client – make the first call. Regular and routine dialogue with clients is essential, not only to report on the latest activities, but to bring forward ideas, foster collaborative thinking, and develop clear goals and plans. We work in a relationship business. Frequent interaction and engagement builds strong relationships.
We give thanks for our clients and the confidence they place in us. We also know clients thank us when we uphold commitments through a consistent focus on client care. Our client care beliefs are on the desks of each professional in our firm. That way, we never forget.