Agencies operating in the field of online and offline marketing must be creative, reliable and must know their trade. This is an absolute must. However, with no skills in building trust and partnership in client relations even the best creations fail to ensure a long-lasting cooperation.
Recently, more and more interactive marketing and PR agencies transform their commercial departments into Client Service departments. They state that it’s caused by their changed views on the process of sales and client service. This require, at least in theory, to transfer the weight of attention from the implementation of needs on business and project planes to the complex nature of supporting and building relations with the client, which would also provide the results on first two planes. Statements are being made that the demonstration of a new client approach is aimed at supporting the change of the client’s perception of the process of selling marketing services, and building a new quality of order implementation. Instead of ‘targets’ and ’three-piecers’ the agency gains a new face.
A couple of times when I was looking for a proper agency, I met teams boasting an interesting portfolio, which, however, were unable to transform their first common project into a long-term cooperation. They lacked in good communication, client-centred attitude and skills of listening. They committed fundamental sins: had no precise insight into the subject, posed as an expert and took certain things for granted. Ongoing contact with a 'three-piecer' was also hindered, since, ya know, the agency’s huge and we’ve many clients and stuff... Not to mention gaps in project reporting. What was the result? It's easy to guess. A great – by the agency's definition – creation was lame even during its implementation, and its effects weren’t entirely consistent with the expected ones. The first common project was often the last one...
Client Service – only PR?
Unfortunately, some agencies approach the client taking a let's-make-good-first-impression approach – let's present a great creation/vision, and when the client will sign the contract, we will manage somehow. And, actually, they manage somehow... What's interesting is that two of such agencies that I met in my professional life posed as Client Service…
Fortunately, there’s also a second pole. Agencies not satisfied with 'somehow' managing. They assume from the very beginning that they’ll do their best and take care of the client in a way they would wish themselves to be treated as part of a business relation. Very often they don't have departments responsible for Client Service – it’s simply rooted in their philosophy. They don't even have to demonstrate their golden rules at www, in social media or on business cards – one could feel it from the first contact.
There are certain common features of agencies seriously treating their clients. Here are 5 most important, given in the form of commandments:
1. Thou shalt talk. Thou shalt listen carefully. Thou shalt ask, ask afresh and ask once more.
2. Thou shalt be sincere and trustworthy – credence and partner consanguinity shalt be built by this way only.
3. Thou shalt inform about difficulties – that is the easiest way to avoid a conflict and find a quick solution.
4. Mail and phone ain't enough – not a single thing may substitute 'face-to-face' intercourse.
5. Thou shalt remember that it is a human being you are dealing with.
Natural consequences of this kind of approach are: effective cooperation and the strategic, long-term and complex performance of business objectives of the client. The first common project (and each subsequent) is implemented in a way that one can't wait for new common challenges. Even a mistake (we’re all humans, after all) won’t end the cooperation, unless it is openly communicated to the client, that is straightaway and in full details.
I'm delighted to hear – as a person on the other side of the fence – that external entities more and more often introduce CS approach in the area of sales and implementation of marketing projects. It gives more meaning to what really matters in business: relations, partnership and professionalism.
But it's already been there...
To conclude, it’s worth asking whether CS is really something new. Not entirely. The importance of relations in sales was always stressed. It functions for a long time in many trades, especially in the case of selling complex solutions – IT (e.g. ERP, BI, dedicated systems, etc.), automotive or medical, though not always under this name, but rather in the form of 'building durable and effective relations'.