adventuresinclientservice.com Adventures in Client Service

adventuresinclientservice.com
Title: Adventures in Client Service
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Description: Adventures in Client Service is refuge for people who deal with clients, a safe haven to exchange views freely and without recrimination, and a source of useful advice that helps you get better at...
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Adventures in Client Service Adventures in Client Service Adventures in Client Service is refuge for people who deal with clients, a safe haven to exchange views freely and without recrimination, and a source of useful advice that helps you get better at what you do. Ask me anything Solomon Strategic The Art of Client Service Archive RSS 2016.08.15 What happens when you don’t trust your client? Years ago, my Ammirati and Puris colleagues presented a final version of a television commercial we were creating for Compaq Computer (now a subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard) to a gathering of client contacts. The spot was good, but it was a bit dark, a point made to us by one of our lead clients. The possibility of a reshoot, at agency expense, hung ever so ominously in the air. That’s when one of the Compaq people we were working with, Jack Todd, spoke up: “I was at the shoot with the Ammirati team; I approved the dailies, and then the rough cut, so if there’s an issue with the spot’s lighting, it is as much my fault as the agency’s.” In moments like this most clients would remain silent and let the agency take the hit, even if it meant something as costly as a reshoot. Not Jack. He saw himself as our partner; he was brave enough to share responsibility with us, even though the consequences, financial and otherwise, could be serious. The discussion went back and forth for a few minutes as we worked through the alternatives; in the end, we would do what we could to brighten the spot in post-production, but it would run as filmed, no reshooting required. I was never close with Jack, nor was my team; he was a largely unknown, almost remote figure, but when it was time to stand up for the agency, Jack stood up. From that day on, I knew we could trust him. This is a story with a (relatively) happy ending, but what happens when you find yourself not trusting a client? How do you respond? There are a nearly infinite number of reasons why an agency might feel this way, but I suspect the majority coalesce around three issues: the work, the relationship, the money. Not trusting the client about the work Put any two people in a room and there likely will be a debate about the work, by which I mean not only a piece of creative, but also a strategy recommendation, a media plan, or anything else you produce on behalf of a client. But trust issues? Most clients I know are quick with an opinion, but a lack of trust often occurs when a client is not being straight with the agency, is not helping make the work better, and is reluctant to share what they really think about what you presented. Now you can try to muddle through, but I see the absence of clear direction as your problem, not the client’s. The challenge is to elicit honest and thorough feedback from even the most reticent, uncertain, and withholding client, so that you extract input you and your colleagues can act on. How to do this? By 1) framing the issue precisely; 2) listening deeply and intensely to questions and concerns, spoken and (especially) unspoken; and, 3) addressing those questions and concerns by exploring every possible option. With an unwilling client, you need to work incredibly hard to gain true, I-really-mean-it buy-in. Not trusting the client about the relationship On relationships, it simply could be your client doesn’t like you. What to do? Your first recourse is to find someone on your team the client does like, then ask them to serve as the face of the agency, with you receding to the background. I have been in several situations where a client did not like me, but did like someone else on our team. Sometimes it was a creative person. Sometimes it was a strategist or planner. On occasion it was another account person. In these instances, I took on a supporting rather than the lead role, ceding terrain to the person the client felt more comfortable with. I was happy to do this, grateful there was someone (or someones) the client liked and respected. Your last recourse, after you’ve explored all other staffing options, is to change the casting, knowing that it is better to change personnel on an account than it is to lose it, even if it means “firing” yourself from the account. Not trusting the client about the money The client’s goal: get as much service, productivity, and output they can from the agency for the fewest dollars possible. Your goal: to be paid fairly for your efforts. Mind you, none of this is personal; it’s business. If your client tends to grind you down on price, build in some financial cushion upfront, providing the necessary “give” in your fee that you can concede that won’t bankrupt your shop. If you still find yourself consistently unable to command a fair fee for your efforts, you face a decision: do we keep this client, asking other, profitable clients to, in a sense, underwrite this underperforming one, or do we make the difficult choice? If the account is small in fee and the work unremarkable, you likely shake hands and wish them well. If the account is large in fee and the work is amazing, you have to think long and hard before you make a decision. In many cases, you keep the client, knowing how deep the impact on staffing would be were you to cut them lose. A matter of trust Even if you don’t fully trust the people you are dealing with, you still can like them, and you can find a way to deal with them. The only thing that truly should erode trust is if your client is being dishonest, dishonorable, or worse. In situations like these, rare though they be, there is only one option at your disposal, and you already know what it is. Facebook Twitter Google+ Mail Permalink 2016.08.08 We are smarter together than we are alone. Emotions are running vastly higher than usual this election year, as people give vent to their hopes, dreams, and frustrations about a new President. But the degree of invective, unreason, and violence exceed what many of us consider even remotely civil. Sad though this may be, this is hardly the first time our country has given in to anger; discord extends all the way back to the founding of the republic, reminding me of a story about Benjamin Franklin. At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with emotions running at fever pitch, the future of the country seriously in doubt, Franklin said this to his Continental Congress colleagues: “We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” A moment of humor that likely broke the tension in the room. You know how the rest of the story turns out. Franklin, of course, was worried about the country’s enemies, the British. The reason I pay attention to what Ben said is I worry about the enemies of great advertising. The creation of advertising and everything that surrounds it—the plans, presentations, budgets, and schedules—is a collaborative process. Effective collaboration is key to making great advertising. So why are so many agencies siloed? Why do departments within agencies—account management, creative, production—often act more like competitors than colleagues? Why is it that many agencies are characterized by turf battles, warring egos, and petty politics? I suppose you could excuse some of this because of the inherently nonlinear, dysfunctional nature of creating advertising. Some of this is due to the people themselves, the ones who put their interests ahead of others, often at the expense of the agency. But much of it, I think, is the result of people forgetting who and what the enemies are. To get your colleagues to hang together, remind them that the enemy is the competition. The enemy is never having enough time to do the work. The enemy is whatever stands in the way of making great work. Remind your colleagues that you need one another to create the best possible advertising in the most efficient and cost-effective way. Remind them you are smarter together than you are alone. Above all, remind them that if you don’t hang together and help one another, you surely will hang separately, soon after the client replaces your agency with another. There may be little hope this election year for decency, civility, and kindness, but there is hope for advertising, assuming we can just remind ourselves who the enemy is. 4+W

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