I am often asked by my legions of fans – ahem, interns – what I believe is the most important aspect of client service. My first thoughts are typically stamina or humility. However, once my momentary emotional tide passes, I always find myself repeating an elevator speech about the necessity to balance expectations – those of your internal team as well as the client. That belief is grounded by the following three points of wisdom:
Communication Is Key
A project manager acts as a liaison between what the Client wants and how the Creative team understands – and plans to achieve – the request. Before the wheels start turning (and hours start to rack up), it’s always a good idea to take a step back, recap the request at hand and make sure the Client is in agreement with the understood approach before the creative work begins. Not only will the Client appreciate the thoroughness of the follow-up, but you will have established an opportunity to set the expectations for both sides. Plus, you’ll be halfway done with your internal paperwork! Never underestimate the power of effective communication. It is the primary factor that can lead to a project’s success or failure.
“Having a great creative team without the support of an account management team is like having a Porsche in the driveway without an engine.” That was someone’s response to an article published in Ad Age discussing an observed trend towards the declining role of account managers at many agencies. When I read this article nearly two years ago, we were coming off the great recession, and our clients were (and still are) being forced to operate with lean budgets. At the time, I started to wonder if my position as an account manager was about to become obsolete. Two years later, my profession is far from obsolete; in fact, its importance has even grown as account managers have been crucial in helping clients make the most effective use of the often limited budgets allowed by these tough economic times.
We work in a fast-paced environment that thrives on creativity and inspiration. At times, it may seem easier and more efficient to bypass established systems in order to get a project completed for a client. However, the core competency of advertising agencies and other creative outlets is not simply the production of creative work. It’s the efficient management of that project which requires the ability to carefully control, document and communicate workflow to deliver the best results. If this cannot be done, even the most creatively successful agency might find itself in a state of chaos. By establishing and adhering to well-established workflow and communication processes, agencies will actually save time in the long run, deliver a better product and satisfy their clients.
Since each client is unique, Domus develops the most appropriate reporting and communications systems to meet their needs. This can include any or all of the following: creative briefs, decision reports, weekly hot lists, weekly status reports, monthly client meetings, quarterly and annual results analysis as well as other customized reports requested by the client. Many of the above reports we are now converting to a digital dashboard that allows our clients easy access to this information at the touch of a button.
We all talk about keeping our clients happy and satisfied, but do we delight them? That may sound like an odd objective but let’s look at the definitions. “Satisfied” is defined as “filled with satisfaction, content.” Whereas “delight” is defined as “a high degree of gratification; also extreme satisfaction.” Given these two definitions, I would prefer to delight my clients rather than simply make them happy. This is particularly important in today’s tough economic climate. Companies that have successfully weathered the economic storm are those that understand that service excellence is a business strategy and recognize that delivering on this strategy is a key differentiator.
According to the recent J. D. Power and Associates Inaugural Cross-Industry Report on Best Practices in Customer Service, during the past decade, average satisfaction scores for service-oriented industries have remained flat, unlike in product-based industries, for which satisfaction has improved steadily. In addition, across all service industries measured by J.D. Power, gaps in satisfaction between the highest- and lowest-performing brands have increased considerably between 2003 and 2010. This is a sad state of affairs for the “service” industry.
Already, in Philadelphia, we are coming to the end of our first heat wave of the year. The dogs days of summer seem to have arrived yet, technically, it’s still spring. The hot days are often the ones that bring on the afternoon head nods (or the winter days when the building has the heat turned up to broiler level).
The afternoon blahs got you feeling fatigued and lethargic? Can’t find the energy you need to focus? Need a pot of coffee just to make it through the afternoon? It happens to all of us sometimes. I exercise frequently. I eat well. My metabolism should be running high, but still I get tired in the afternoons, on occasion.
Most agencies claim that their number one goal is to ensure that each and every client has a top performing team to deliver the highest quality work, results and client satisfaction. But, can traditionally-structured agencies deliver on this promise when they have a finite set of resources? The Domus business model is client-centric by design, a model that we believe is a smart and efficient alternative to the traditional ad agency. By the term “client-centric” we mean that Domus conforms to a client’s particular account and their specialized needs.
Some clients need technical writing, others need help with media buying, others want efforts devoted specifically to social media – we cater to all of these needs and evolve as the client’s needs and objectives change. By using this approach we’re able to be nimble and move with the client – our clients aren’t locked into a rigid, 12-month plan; as their focus changes – so do we. They move, we move. We believe each client and each project presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities. That’s why we develop customized teams of specialized resources to fulfill each client’s unique needs.
“More businesses need to recognize that poor health means lower productivity and higher health insurance costs. Smart business leaders increasingly are finding that it is the right decision to promote health, education, physical activity, and preventive benefits in the workplace.”
Former US Secretary of Health and Human Services
I have previously posted on this blog about the importance of working some exercise into your day. An effort must be put into living a healthy lifestyle if we wish to feel better, live longer, and be more productive in life. The benefits of healthy living are well documented, yet Americans still have difficulty committing to important changes that will benefit them and their lifestyle.
It’s springtime in Philly and the streets seem to get more crowded each day with the fair-weather exercisers. With longer days and warmer temps upon us, it’s the time when many individuals’ thoughts turn to getting in shape. This is a great time to make the commitment since the weather is nice and it’s mentally easier to becoming active and adhere to a program. Starting an easy, inexpensive exercise program is an excellent way to combat the generally unhealthy lifestyle that Americans have become notorious for.
In America today a majority of the workforce lives a sedentary lifestyle. We sleep in comfy beds, wake up to sit on a sofa while watching our favorite morning show, ride in a car or on a train to the office, sit in front of a computer, then travel back to our homes where we sit and watch TV until it’s time to get back in our comfy beds. This routine is truly killing us.
Sitting or remaining inactive for most of the day with little or no exercise characterizes our sedentary lifestyle. This lack of exercise can cause shrinking and weakening of the muscles and increases our likelihood of injury. The accompanying reduction in physical fitness is generally associated with a weakening of the immune system. Yet, despite the many known benefits of exercise, most adults continue to lead a relatively sedentary lifestyle and therefore never achieve the health benefits of exercise.
Truly good creative is hard to find and even harder to produce on a consistent basis. Think about the best creative campaigns you have seen recently then compare that to all the creative there is on the market. Mind-boggling how small the percentage of quality creative really is. Often one good idea will spawn many knock-offs and wannabes trying to cash in on the popularity of someone else’s hard work. It’s not easy for creative professionals. Their livelihood is based on their ability to produce top-notch, successful creative ideas on a regular, recurring basis. And, when you consider that many concepts don’t even make it to production, you realize what a daunting task creative professionals have.
Who really knows what good creative is? Something so subjective is difficult to quantify. Are there really any new ideas out there or is it a matter of presenting historically good ideas in new and fresh ways? One of the most difficult things creative minds have to do is keep their ideas fresh.
“Kaizen” (“improvement” in Japanese) is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvements throughout all one’s life. Japanese companies have applied this philosophy to the workplace, where they continually search for improvements in all aspects of their business practices. The emphasis is on small continuous changes with monitoring feedback and adjustments as opposed to large-scale overhauls.
Up until recently, most of these improvements have focused on manufacturing and related processes. However, they might well be ready to move into the marketing and advertising area, and American marketers should take note. Toyota just announced that it is creating two internal marketing companies to start focusing on both its Japanese and worldwide advertising efforts. Their goal is not just to save money by bringing advertising and PR functions in-house; rather, they want the kaizen culture imbued in their entire marketing efforts, and they believe they can better do this in-house.
This might be a preface to bringing in-house their more than $1 billion advertising budget. If they are successful and this becomes a trend, Madison Avenue might have more problems than it already thinks it has. But moreover, it’s a valid wake-up call to the entire industry. Although there are many aspects to marketing that are hard to quantify because they are creative in nature, there are also many aspects that are quantifiable and ripe for improvement. Who among us can assuredly say that none of our project lifecycles could not have been completed more quickly with fewer change cycles? Who can say that no mistakes have ever gotten through the cracks? And who currently has in place mechansims to track things like this as well as processes to continually improve them?
Those of us who do not might well find our businesses suffering or even dying. On the other hand, those of us who embrace these ideas might well have new opportunities that we had not realized were available to us. At Domus, we have spent the last few years working on improving what we already considered a lean, effective organization. But we can’t – and won’t – rest from this process. Please click on our web site to find out more about us.