The business of client servicing definitely goes beyond the perfect brief. Every now and then you have to ensure that the client is handled well and the promises made delivered.
Whether your client is an entrepreneur or marketing manager of a listed company, they will have the same feeling: a combination of excitement at the wonders the agency is about to deliver and fear that by appointing this expensive agency, they have made a very costly mistake.
Probably, that six figure retainer fee could have been used to redo the interior of several of their branches.
As an agency, the first task is to reassure the client. Despite the fact that you are still in the process of immersing yourself into this new brand, the first week should be characterised by very few mistakes, always making sure that the entire team is enthusiastic and aligned with all the contractual obligations.
Your next step is to learn everything you can about the client’s business. Ask heaps of questions, be curious, subscribe to their media outlets, follow their competitors on Twitter and make sure your institutional and industry knowledge is unparalleled. Always remember that during the 45-minutes pitch, you promised to be part of the market intelligence team.
During the emersion process ensure that you establish and collectively agree with your client on the metrics on which your work will be measured. For some clients, it may be as specific as the number of links to the website or new business enquiries. Others want something less tangible, such as ‘better awareness’.
Whatever it is, you cannot measure your impact until you have established a base case. That could be an awareness survey, a coverage count pre-you, or a system for establishing where enquiries are coming from. Use this particular session to manage the expectations of this new client because from this point, all promises will be deemed as deliverables.
By the way agency-client relationship is more complicated than a marriage only that for marriage the retainer is paid well in advance in form of dowry. Anyway, always communicate the good and the bad in equal measures. The client needs to know when things are going well and when they are going bonkers. Make sure you are the first to tell them either way.
That article in the Citizen Weekly should be emailed to them before their peers send them the article on WhatsApp. Likewise, when a key journalist says she just isn’t interested, the client has a right to know. Trust you me, the modern client, knows when you are buying time on something, they no longer believe in “To Be Confirmed” interviews.
My few years in PR have made me learn that, all the urgent board and senior management report request only come on Friday afternoons. So with reports, make sure you revisit them regularly (weekly, monthly, quarterly), and identify how you are doing. This might save you from the annoying Friday call, asking for a media performance report for the quarter.
One more thing, every now and then the strategy might not work; it’s normal, how many times have you restarted your computer? It’s always not about you; it might be due to some external factor. In case you want to change the strategy, discuss again with the client.
Account managers all too often see themselves as coverage machines, whose role is to churn out column inches. Remember, your client is running a business, and great coverage may not be everything to them, so make sure you are in tune with what they are thinking.
Lastly, one of my secret weapons in this business has been to always assume that the client is a busy, disorganised person – not my current clients though. Just because you said something once in an email to a client, or reported something in your activity report does not mean that the client has read it or remembers it.
Provide detail and context to every piece of correspondence (e.g. further to my email of 30th June…) and regularly summarise results in the body of an email (not just in your activity report) and provide summaries of outstanding actions and next steps.
Sachida is a public relations and communications practitioner based in Nairobi. @barasapaul on twitter