Redefining client service

Samantha Gendel (330x640)We throw the descriptor Client Service around as if it were little more than the physical embodiment of an arduous phone call or a well-meant email. But then, sometimes this is not such a far-fetched comparison. We all know the drill…. That sounds like a great idea, I’ll brief it in. The team has come back with the following… oh, not what you were looking for?  Ok, I’ll de-brief them… Shall we meet next Tuesday?  I’ll check with (insert any department within the agency) and get back to you. Sound familiar?

 

Now, let’s consider for a moment the definition of Client Services. Its primary role is to create and maintain positive relationships between the agency and its clients – resulting in a quality end-product that meets client’s business/brand objectives, that is produced efficiently and that results in a positive ‘bottom-line’ effect for both agency and client. Let’s keep in mind that not all agencies have a client service assistant, manager and director. In many cases, these are one and the same!

He or she is the key day-to-day agency representative to client but, more importantly, should be part of and involved in the overall strategic and creative planning and execution of the communications campaign. A truly excellent account director should be a very strategic and disciplined thinker, providing excellent creative briefs when necessary, and assisting in the overall direction and execution of each campaign. This, more often than not, is not the reality.

Client Services has, to a large extent, become a ‘post office’ – passing information from one party to another. Client Service has lost the ability, or opportunity, to provide REAL input – strategically, creatively and in terms of project management.

With the rapidly changing advertising landscape, the role of Client Services becomes ever more critical. This begs the question: what should agencies be doing to ensure their Client Service department is at the top of its game?

Looking into the future, there are some key factors that need to be addressed in order to elevate the role of, and value added by, the Client Service department.

REDEFINE:

Client Service needs to re-establish itself as more than just a bunch of ‘well dressed paper pushers’. It is incumbent on agencies and individuals to redefine and reposition the role, so as to ensure that there is true value to both client and agency.

UP-SKILL:

There is no need to talk about the requirement for education and up-skilling, as we all know its importance. However we must direct this, such that we up-skill in terms of our clients’ businesses and the markets in which they operate. We need to understand these dynamics and realities as a brand manager would.

TOTAL IMMERSION:

Client Service needs to immerse itself in the client’s business and brand as well as the strategic, creative and production processes within the Agency. In this way we are able to truly understand the rationale behind a brief and the steps to be taken – in broad strokes – in order to service the brief and client optimally; and ensure the interests of the agency are protected and accounted for.

BE CURIOUS:

We need to be more curious. We need to ask the right questions. And many of them…

OWNERSHIP:

We need to demonstrate passion, and a sense of ownership of our brands and their future success. We need to give our clients reasons to believe in us, much as we do with their consumers and their campaigns.

ESTABLISH VALUE:

By entrenching the points above in what constitutes Client Service, we take a giant leap toward embedding ourselves as a valued member of the Agency team and trusted resource and confidant to Client.

There is a simple benefit that derives from putting the above into practice to both Agency and Client – a consistent and efficient resource that can competently guide the strategic and creative process – resulting in best ‘hit rate’ and quality of end-product.

ABOUT SAMANTHA GENDEL JONES

Samantha is Director of Client Service at Gendel Strategic Marketing Group. She has worked in Client Service, at both independent and networked agencies, for 9 years. She has a passion for neuropsychology and what really ‘makes us tick’.