Just because agencies don’t teach doesn’t mean you can’t learn.
I don’t think I could have started this blog with a more self motivating quote, something I find to be vitally important when working within an agency.
The term ‘agency life’ will be used a lot in this blog, it is why it is my keyword (a bit of SEO humour there), because working in an agency takes on its own life. It is fast paced, early starts, late finishes, the whole work hard play hard ethic, plus the occasional drinks with clients… occasional right…! It can be hard to keep up. So, here’s a little guide on what makes client services great and what makes a person great at client services.
‘Just because agencies don’t teach doesn’t mean you can’t learn’
It is our job, as individuals, to always make time to learn. If we waited on someone else to teach us what we should know, our knowledge would be never expand. My job may be in client services, but I needed to learn the services that the agency provides. Now, I am no technician, nor creative (I wish), but I took it upon myself to learn the services provided. By doing this, briefing projects and talking to clients about the progression of their projects becomes more organic, they know they can trust my input.
Casting & choreographing
In the performing arts industry, dancers, actors, singers and so forth are always performing. How is client service’s any different right? Client services are always performing whether it’s for our team or for the client. It is our job to motivate the team and reassure our clients, even if things may be going a little tits up backstage, we live by one rule. Never. Break. Character.
‘Just because we may not be on a stage, does not mean we are not performing’
Pitching & knowing your audience
When pitching a brief to a client, you want to make sure there is a level of trust there. By gaining trust from your client, you are opening a whole new world of possibilities. Okay, so your client doesn’t have to be your best friend, however, adding a personal aspect into your relationship makes briefing fun and less stressful. Trust is more important than friendship, but friendship builds trust.
‘Do not pitch as if you are pitching to a stranger. Why? Strangers are more likely to say ‘no thanks’ whereas friends are more likely to say ‘yes, let’s proceed’.
What I love about bbd is that we very, very rarely call our clients via phone. If our clients cannot come to us (or we can’t fly, train, or taxi to them) then we are more likely to have a video chat. Being able to see each other’s faces makes this more personal to the client. You can see the facial expressions, the care and the thought behind each brief that is being presented.
My advice: Know who your client is. Research the company, what could be improved, how can we improve this and why our agency and no one else’s? What makes us different? Sell it, believe in it, pitch it!
Managing client expectations
Keep in contact with your client at all times when it comes to managing their project. They have put their faith and trust in you. A Monday morning status will let your client know what has been accomplished the week before and what we are looking forward to the week ahead. What can they expect from us? This could be a staging link, translations, designs, you name it. Letting them know we are thinking of them and they are our first priority on a Monday morning gives your client reassurance that they are our number one priority, each and every client should know they are our number one priority!
Another way of managing client expectations are time plans. This is a plan where you can break down the stages of their project so they are aware of what is happening when there is a rare chance we are not exchanging emails with them.
‘Great work wins business; a great relationships keeps it’
Meetings, Meetings, Meetings
When running a meeting there are 5 suggestions to follow to help it run smoothly:
- Start on time; End on time;
- Be mindful that agency life is fast paced. Client services are constantly in and out of meetings. Departments have charged hours for work completion and if their day is filled with meetings they are losing out on time and let me tell you, time is of the essence! Stay punctual, make sure you start and end of time and there is also enough time to cover everything you need in the meeting.
- Create and agenda in advance
- An agenda helps what you need to determine in the meeting and if you even need the meeting or if this could be discussed over an email (time efficiency yet again). Having an agenda helps you keep on track and all points are and will be covered by all parties.
- Come prepared
- To avoid dragging out meetings and them being twice as long as needed is to shorten conversations. Say what you have to quickly, clearly and concisely.
- Guide the discussions
- The guide is to keep everyone on track. If anything is unclear, It is our job to make sure everyone understands. Client services are the heart of the agency.
- Follow up
- bbd have a rule where we ALWAYS follow up after a call or meeting (as well as note taking during the meeting to help with the follow up). Having a follow up email allows client services and the client to have a written summary of what was discussed in the meeting, next steps and any further questions your clients may have.
Thank goodness for briefing templates!
When creating a briefing document, remember, your team may not have been on the call/brief from your client. Therefore, following a simple yet informative process will help your team understand the request from us.
- One line summary:
- Start your brief with a one line summary of the project.
- Discuss the background of the project:
- Is it a new brief? If so, who’s it for and where has it come from. Is it part of or a follow-up from an existing project?
- The objectives:
- What do you want to achieve? What is the overall aim and what are the key objectives of the project?
- What are we delivering? What do we need to make? When and what for?
My Advice: Write the brief from the clients perspective.
The relationship and why I love being in client services:
In an agency there are busier clients and quieter clients. it’s not always about the money. It’s the relationship built between agency and client and how we are assisting in their business. Some clients do not have the funds to constantly have a project on going, therefore, we don’t always stay in contact every week. Once a client however, always a client. It’s great to check in on them now and then and maybe, just maybe, a new brief will be discussed. It’s like a long distance relationship sometimes, you can’t always see them, and sometimes you worry that will push you apart, but you are always thinking about them and it is like they were never away when they are back in the building.
So, you pop in and check on them, planting the seed and confirming you are always there to help. I have worked on projects helping promote care vacancies for a council where we would go and film in various care institutions. The outcome of this project was absolutely beautiful and was also for an emotive and very meaningful cause. That was just a one time project with the client but that does not mean we do not stay in touch.
Triumphs and Challenges – Project Delivery
I wish I could say being in client services is all rainbows and sunshines, however, that is not the case. In our life, we are put in uncomfortable situations and we just have to get on a deal with it. That is the same if we have an unhappy client. So, how do we deal with them?
It’s never an end game:
Sometimes a delivery of a project doesn’t always go to plan and it may even be out of your control. How do we manage this without upsetting the client, even though it may be written in your time plan when and why feedback is needed on a specific date in order to get print done and delivered to the client? Stay cool and collected, there’s always a solution.
One of our Senior Account Managers went to Switzerland and back in one day for a Christmas card to be delivered for the client.. Client services go above and beyond. It is in our nature!
Triumphs and Challenges: Amends vs Money
In your investment plans, always cost for a round of amends and make a note that any further amends will require additional costs. Time is money and money is time so the more time we waste, the more money we waste and vice versa. There may be just one or two little ‘tweaks’ of amends where we would do this out of good will (remember, it’s all about the relationship with the client). If there are constantly small amends in a project we will have to cost.
In my opinion, it is always best to attend a call with the client in order to get all feedback consolidated along with someone higher in the agency to assist you with their experience in a similar situation. This can also be a colleague from a different department, as a new set of eyes can really help to open yours.
Triumphs and Challenges: Taking the Blame
That classic line in any customer facing role:
‘The customer is always right’
Even if they are not, just go with it. They chose YOU, remember. You are the chosen one. We are the mothers and fathers of the agency – we are the roots. Therefore, if something goes wrong in tech, planning, creative, production etc, it was on our watch. We are responsible. Take ownership, and be prepared to take the heat from the client.
We are now coming to the end of your ‘guide’ in client services. I mean, this job is life consuming but I have never been in such a rewarding job. You are the core of a project and once that project is finished and you see it live after all the blood, sweat and significant amount of tears but I feel PROUD. There are not many jobs where you feel proud. It’s a lot to take in, and after a year in this industry I am still learning and taking new things in – I don’t think there will ever be a day where I don’t. But I am proud to be part of the art of client services.