I’ve had a few recent reminders about this, working with some other professional services companies. All of them have been really talented in their respective fields but were lacking in their ability to communicate on the work we were doing together. Weeks would go by and I’d hear nothing, so I’d follow-up and say hey, where are we? In the silence between emails/phone calls/meetings they’ve been getting on with things. They just forgot to mention it to me.
This is such a frustrating part of doing business for me, because I pride myself in being a communicator and I don’t mind what someone is doing, how they’re doing it, or even why they’re doing something in a certain way, AS LONG AS they tell me BEFORE I ask for an update.
The other frustration is communicating when a request is not achievable. I don’t mind being told that my ideas are not do-able, but I do mind when it’s not done without it being explained to me effectively. I am a very open person and certainly appreciate that my ideas are not always going to work, but please just tell me – I can move on. You’ve got to keep the chain of communication open and be pro-active if you are servicing a client. Communication is the most important part of an effective client/agency relationship, and if it is done effectively, it takes away a lot of frustration and has a very good chance to make your client very happy.
This is not just my experience. It is an experience I hear all too often from very senior marketing professionals working in Asia Pacific. Most of them have told me they are constantly seeking updates from their agencies, feel forced to keep on top of the deliverables due, and that they never feel reassured that the agency is on track because the agency is not communicating with them effectively.
So if you work for an agency or a professional services firm and have been criticised for your communication or find your clients’ constantly frustrated, here’s some recommendations:
- Every Monday send your client a list of things you will be focusing on for the week on their behalf, including expected results – this should take five minutes
- If your client sends a request on email, reply and say “I’m on it”
- If your client sends a request on email, and you reply and say “I’m on it” – make sure you get back to them ASAP. If it is going to take some time, tell them when they can expect a response
- If your client sends an idea, and after you’ve had a chance to think about it you know it just won’t work, call them or email them and say “I have thought long and hard about your suggestion and while I really appreciate where you are coming from, it’s not going to work because of this, this and this, HOWEVER, expanding on the idea, can I suggest this approach instead?” Unless they are an egomaniac, many will appreciate your pro-activity coming up with another idea
- Throughout the week, quick calls, emails and SMS’s on any significant wins or challenges
- Friday – a five minute “flash report” or wrap-up of the weeks activities, successes, challenges and thoughts moving forward – which should also be the crux of Monday’s communication – a good practise to get in to
The important thing is, you should never EVER have a client call you and ask where you are with your agreed deliverables. If they do that, you are not communicating effectively. I don’t think you can over-communicate, because if you do, they will tell you.
In the meantime, communicate, communicate, communicate and your relationship with your client will blossom like you never knew possible, and this will happen because they’ll feel reassured that you are on the case on their behalf. This is one of those really simple things that so many professionals seem to miss. If you can get this right, you will win big in Asia – trust me, your potential clients have already told me so.
Any other great tips or guidance you can think of?
PS: if your client is an egomaniac or one of those people who seem to derive a great deal of pleasure out of giving their agencies a hard time – then that is another challenge. Sometimes you’ve got to recognise that these sorts of people do exist, and much of the time they’ll never be happy no matter what you do. If you have one of these unfortunate experiences and have done all you can to meet their requirements, as well as speaking with them to understand what changes you can make to satisfy their needs, and still they are on your case constantly, then I suggest you get your boss to speak with their boss. If that doesn’t happen or result in any changes, then maybe it’s time to request a change of accounts or perhaps, if this person is just making you miserable, it’s time to move on? It’s rare but some people really do like to be difficult with their agencies, and until they learn their lesson (hopefully not off your back) save yourself a lot of heartache and angst, and move on. They’re not worth the headspace – and bad clients take up a lot of headspace when you let them – at work and at home. I think most of us who have worked in an agency can relate to this?
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