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Does your client service model serve you well?

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Bell to ring for service.

Agencies spend a great deal of time developing and refining a business model designed to optimally serve their clients, while maintaining business objectives. It becomes the science of matching the departmental agency structure required to drive an efficient and effective process with the unique nature of client organizations and the clients themselves. These can, in some cases, be opposing forces.

I’ll give you an example. At CPC our standard process is to ask a client to first review a copy deck for approval before we undertake layout. This can facilitate a design process with fewer revisions, creating a more efficient and cost effective process. However, many people find that reviewing copy without its visual context difficult and ask to review copy in layout. Both are reasonable positions, but full layout before copy review may mean more complex revisions and more studio time. It’s more expensive and time consuming for the agency. And often the client needs the piece ASAP.

So, in this case, who blinks? Ultimately, it’s the job of the agency to adjust to client needs and adapt to their process. Not just in this case, but in all client process. This can be extremely challenging for the agency, but it’s an issue of adapt or die.

I’d submit that, while there are elements of our client service model that are consistent among all clients, no two clients are alike in terms of how they need us to adjust to their process. So how do we manage it? Well, first we take a proactive approach, when ‘onboarding’ a new client. Not only do we want to understand their full process so we know what tweaks we’ll need to make, but we respect their needs as an individual, wanting to know how we can be additive to their day, rather than a burden. Some prefer email to phone contact. Some like live meetings, while others like the efficiency of web meetings. Some prefer a daily ‘to do’ list rather than a weekly status report. And we make sure that we ask these questions (and more!) during our onboarding.

If all clients worked in exactly the same way, with the same standards and identical process, life would be grand (boring, but grand)! We, as an integrated team, actively commit to manage a client’s business optimally, and if that means we must be ready to go left when we usually go right, so be it. And it doesn’t preclude us from proposing new approaches or processes that might make life easier for our client. It’s our job, ongoing, to be assessing our working relationship and proposing measures to improve our client interaction. Agencies can still play an active role in crafting the best service model for each client.

As a client, it’s important you make it very clear to your agency how you need them to provide their services. They won’t be in a position to fix something you don’t like in their approach, unless you are very candid. Welcome or encourage regular performance reviews – you’ll both benefit. And if they propose (rather than impose) an alternative process, keep an open mind. It’s coming from a place of extensive experience and may suit your needs well.

Both parties need to think about it like a marriage. Frank, open dialogue, active listening, and mutual respect will see you through. If you haven’t got that, it might be time for a counsellor!

Both parties need to think about it like a marriage.

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