Client Services Breakfast Briefing: A happy client is a happy agency.

By Joanna Hinchliffe
26 Jun 2017

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20th June saw the inaugural BIMA Northwest Client Services breakfast briefing, lead by Joanna Hinchliffe, Business Director of Amaze.

This first event, attended by representatives from Amaze, Reckless, CTI Digital, Tech City UK, Code and Zircom focused on the importance of having a structured approach to understanding and monitoring client satisfaction and some of the wider influences and pitfalls to consider.

Joanna commenced the briefing with an introduction to client satisfaction. She compared its simplistic definition to the layered complexity of influencing factors such as wider organisational support, employee satisfaction, the value of the service/solution delivered and client growth – all components of the service value chain.

Joanna closed her introduction by outlining the value a client satisfaction programme can bring to an agency in terms of client and commercial growth, service offering, consistency of agency standards and new business development.

When is client satisfaction not satisfaction?

Joanna noted some example scenarios when satisfaction, driven by factors such as revenue, CS relationships or individual client advocacy may not always be accurate markers for success.

The group discussed more examples of real life instances where this had been experienced and how teams had or could respond:

• A client’s experience or understanding of a certain topic or digital channel was limited, leading to a negative perception of – and satisfaction with – work delivered. Resolution could involve supporting the client in building their expertise, going back to basics, or continually referencing back to either a pitch or objectives set to re-enforce the value of the work produced.

• Senior client teams can sometimes only be engaged when there is an issue or as a point of escalation from within their teams. Whilst day to day client teams are happy with the work and with the agency team, there can be differing levels of satisfaction within a client team overall. The resolution discussed was to ensure peer to peer engagement across client and agency to manage the different perspectives and roles within the client team, and to shape communication around that. Having open dialogue at all levels, whether CEO to CEO or Account Manager to Marketing Executive, is key.

• Legacy projects had an impact on future perceptions and relationships, irrespective of the positive progress made in other projects, or changes in personnel on both sides since. Resolutions discussed included making sure we address issues as they arise through effective wash-ups and project retrospectives.

• A new senior director wants to bring in a new team, irrespective of how well the existing agency has done. Resolutions discussed included ensuring a broad reach within the organisation, building a network of strong and positive advocates.

Measuring satisfaction

Approaches to measuring satisfaction were noted, running from reactive to proactive and progressing from firefighting and gut-instinct to data driven, quantifiable methodologies. Joanna explored the experiences of the agencies in the room and asked where they would place themselves on the spectrum.

Overall, all agencies noted that they were looking to bring a more formalised approach to satisfaction measurement, with a number having undertaken their first external surveys in the past few months.

Points discussed included:

• The need for a multi-channel approach to truly assessing satisfaction. A survey will provide quantitative information, but it’s key to follow that up with more qualitative exploration as well as day to day informal insights. As an example, a high score on speed of delivery may mask the concern from the client that they can’t run at the same pace.

• How willing clients are to participate in satisfaction programmes and the honesty of their feedback. Agencies shared their experiences to date. The potential risk areas are those clients who are in the ‘middle’ where they have nothing overtly negative and nothing overtly positive to share, so don’t participate. Agencies therefore need to understand and anticipate needs by alternative means.

• Working in collaboration with clients to define satisfaction KPIs was discussed as a means of encouraging greater buy-in and actionable outputs.

Finally, it was agreed that feedback should be shared within the business and the teams. Positive feedback should be recognised at team and individual levels (which tied back to the service value chain and the impact employee satisfaction has on clients).

Bringing rigour to the process

Joanna presented a number of considerations for devising a client satisfaction programme, each underpinned by adding a level of rigour to the process.

Themes included gaining organisational buy in, planning client engagement models, assessing frequency of engagement, approaches to measurement and actionable insights. Overall it was noted that, irrespective of the scale of a programme, considering these factors will provide a platform for success and enable an agency to devise a structured and consistent approach to ongoing measurement of client satisfaction.

Final recap:

Joanna concluded discussions with a summary of key points:

• Client satisfaction is not a standalone principle

• Don’t be afraid to look under the hood

• Rigour can be applied to every programme

• Outcomes have to be actioned

• Your organisation has to be willing to respond

• Gut instinct can never tell the full story

• Knowledge is power

BIMA needs you!

Joanna closed the session with an outline of the plans for BIMA Northwest’s Client Services community. 

Anyone wishing to get involved in future events or commentary should contact her or the BIMA Northwest team for more information.

Joanna Hinchliffe, Business Director at Amaze & BIMA Northwest Client Services council member 

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