I have read alot of content recently about Client Services, not only in digital agencies but across all communication agency types – ATL, BTL, experiential, social media, etc. While it has been good to read about different approaches to what constitues best Client Services, and at the same time picking up all of the consistent cross overs from agency to agency, I have my own view on how best to deliver Client Services in a way that is structured to produce the best work. An approach I believe in here at Zabisco.
Client Services as a discipline has many different strands – financial, strategic, working process, project deliverables, communication and personal (getting to know your clients as real people is a absolute must, dont treat them as a voice on the phone, really get to know them). The area I am going to focus on in this blog is how to approach presenting your work, the physical delivery of the IA, designs, audit and / or recommendations you are making within the project. How to present your work in a way that is not only beneficial to your client, but also protects the integrity and quality of your work.
Anything other than a approach to Client Services that is driven by the internal agency philosophy will be doomed to fail. Any agency striving to deliver real, substantial service to all clients must have a true, mapped out approach to this, one that all employees are fully committed to and have a understanding of. It is here that I believe the approach to Client Services must be driven by the philosophy at the heart of your agency.
At Zabisco we consider ourselves UX experts, taking the approach to any project that we must strive for the absolute best possible solution. How we transfer this into Client Services delivery is by ensuring the client understands fully and has a clear background breakdown as to the approaches / solutions / designs etc we are recommeding at any given stage of a project. We have a firm belief in the work we present to the client and the recommendations, architecture, wireframes, designs et cetera that we produce.
Now it is important to state here, how you deliver this type of approach results in whether a project is successful. Take too firm a stance in your own work that you appear arrogant, unable to listen to your clients feedback / input and frictions will appear, such friction will not only inherently hold up the project itself but effect the client / agency relationship. At any agency I have ever worked for, whether freelancing or full time, the long term client / agency relationship must always be considered, and the importance of, never underestimated.
My point here, is that as the agency / supplier I firmly believe that it is important to remember that a client has come to you for a specific purpose. They recognise you as experts in what you do, that they have a need for you and wish to work with you. A business situation has arisen and there is a need for the knowledge, skills and insights you have that your clients organisation does not hold internally.
The moment that you start to churn out work in a way that is dictated by the client is when you are no longer being engaged with as experts in what you do. This is exactly where agencies with a strong Client Service approach come out on top. Show and tell your client why they originally chose to work with you over anyone else, give them real insights into the project choices you have made. If the need is there to push back on your clients feedback, then you should always feel confident enough in your own approach to do so. I have seen in practice how destructive long term a client / agency relationship can be when the agency simply churns out work exactly how the client has dictated, making changes to designs or navigation structures without any questioning at all from the agency.
This can, and will, only lead to a vicious circle, the client will expect you to make their changes without questions, and when you suddenly start to do so you will then be going against the grain of how your relationship has been – you will have set working expectations in your client by how you have delivered work previously.
I believe, above all else, that the quality of the work should never be compromised. Ensuring the final project deliverables are the best possible should always be the driving force behind the client / agency relationship, and this same relationship should only ever be structured and implemented to give both parties input and control over the final project delivery.
I have always found that when a client receives push back on changes requested, as long as the agency can give real insight reasons as to why they disagree with what the client has asked for, then the client is open to hearing this. Often I have seen agencies with a fear of their own expertise, one that the client will embrace if the agency is strong enough to present itself in such a way.