You often hear agency people say they’re in the “client service” industry. While an agency could specialize in social, strategy, media, 360 campaigns, programmatic—you name it—they often tout how their business specializes in service. Heck, we do it too. But when it comes down to it, is it really just about the service?
The definition of “service” is “the action of helping or doing work for someone.” But consider “experience,” defined as a “practical contact with and observation of facts or events.” The key difference in the second definition is it clearly articulates “observation.” It’s not just “doing work” or completing an insertion order. It’s about making meaningful connections and observations that lead to strategic recommendations based on facts or events (or in our case, data and expertise).
Ask anyone at Nomadic and that’s likely how they would describe our way of working with clients. It’s work backed by thoughtful strategy spanning all departments of the agency.
For those of us who lead client relationships, we all know the general things that enhance experience: Be transparent and over-communicate. Be timely (in all aspects of work). Be on brief. Be innovative with creative. But what if we strive for going beyond the expected? Here’s what we put into practice.
Make time for the little things.
It really is the little things that can make the biggest difference in a client-agency experience. It’s sending unprompted notes and next steps from an inter-agency call so the client has one less thing on their plate. It’s turning a wordy proposal document into a visual presentation.
We often go above and beyond for the sake of these small gestures. In fact, I think it is something that Nomadic chronically does. Some might say that’s to our detriment because it definitely takes more effort. But when we do it right, relatively quickly, it pays off.
Take clients along for the ride.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable by bringing clients in along the journey. Showing work in progress can be scary. But ultimately, it can lead to more trust and quicker buy-in. For example, giving your client a preview to a big presentation might allow for shared thought and vision, allowing them (and you) to look buttoned up and aligned in the meeting with the larger group.
Channel the brand manager.
Something I believe Nomadic does well is compiling and memorizing client/brand nuances, so that meeting after meeting, year after year, we can continue to evolve and come up with solutions based on those nuances. Clients are sometimes surprised we keep track of all those distinctions, such as nomenclature or tone. Multiple people have said, “Wow, I can’t believe you remembered that” or “You guys continue to keep things fresh under the circumstances (repetitive topics, limited assets, etc).”
To do this also means learning a client’s business and industry in order to be an effective extension of their teams. Follow industry trades; read their quarterly reports; understand their consumers’ wants, needs and desires—and seek to understand their short-term and long-term business objectives.
Remember that we all serve the same goal: their goals.
I don’t mean we should be subservient to their ideas. We should negotiate at the appropriate times and respect their ideas. But we also have to keep their business goals at the forefront at all times, to make recommendations that will ultimately impact their objectives, rather than ours. Because when they win, we win.
Create real relationships.
I left the best for last. At the end of the day, a client’s “experience” is only better if you’re connecting with them in a personal and meaningful way. It’s far more than being just friendly; it’s about going beyond the work. Taking the time to build a personal relationship like you would any other, by asking about their family, interests, background and daily life. It gives you the ability to make an authentic connection when you can start a meeting with, “How was your daughter’s softball game?” or “Your team won last night, go Chiefs!”
And on that note, remember to put yourself in your client’s shoes. The creative process is an emotional one on both sides. Follow the golden rule with an empathetic and warm approach to all interactions, and you’ll find you can navigate difficult situations smoothly and quickly.
Of course, it’s not a science. Every client has unique needs and business goals—which means how you approach experience with each client and project is going to be different. So: observe and learn your clients and their business, be transparent, stay humble and enjoy the time you spend working together.
To dive deeper into what it means to deliver excellent client experience, read this article from Smashing Magazine. A mentor shared it with me, and they remind me often to reference it, because the examples do a fantastic job of bringing these principles to life.