Client Satisfaction: How Agency Work Ethic Impacts Partnerships

October 17, 2018 | Lorraine Stewart

An accomplished carpenter felt ready to retire. He told his boss of his plans to leave in order to live a more leisurely life with his wife. He would miss the paycheck, but he had saved enough to be able to quit and enjoy a modest lifestyle.

The contractor was sorry to see such a talented worker go, and so he managed to convince the carpenter to stay on during the busy season to help build just one more house, as a personal favor.

The carpenter begrudgingly agreed, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shortcuts, shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished his work, the contractor came to inspect the house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. “This is your house,” contractor said. “It is my gift to you.”

The carpenter was speechless! What a wasted opportunity! If he had only known that he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.

Our recent consulting engagement with STIHL, the leading manufacturer of hand-held outdoor power equipment has resulted in a newfound appreciation for the chainsaw. Its power, precision and the artisan level craftsmanship that goes into making their superior powerhead products is impressive. STIHL sells to consumers and professional tradesmen, both targets bonded by the desire to roll up the sleeves and work hard to tackle the tough tasks they want to accomplish.

When we source new ad agencies for our marketing clients we follow up to check in on how things are going. Clients often discuss their positive experiences by headlining one specific factor.

What do you think most impacts satisfaction? the Creative product?

An understandable guess to be sure, but we find happy clients are most impressed by the agency work ethic, one they readily admit they have grown to depend upon. (The second factor is a feel-good cultural fit, expressed as the familial sense of knowing each other and working well together.)

Like the lesson illustrated by the carpenter, whether we are building a house or a brand it is often the quality of our “work ethic” that shapes the outcome we live with. So what exactly is work ethic in today’s connected world, and what actions keeps clients satisfied?

Build It and they Will Come

In a service-based business, work ethic is defined as more than a sense of professionalism, the ability to multi-task or clocking in long hours. Most marketing execs crave efficiency and value agencies that can work smarter leveraging technology. Other cite responsiveness and action as key markers of work ethic. Great cultural fit with an agency usually produces work that is done well the first time, with minimal rounds of revisions or exploratory rework that can frustrate both parties. Work ethic produces work product that meets expectations.

“I’ll take a no-name agency that gets creative work done right the first time over a big name agency that needs rounds and rounds of meetings to get to something we can all live it,” explained one senior marketing leader.

“Work ethic is not about working long hours or working weekends,” he continued. “I personally think work ethic on the part of the agency means what they show up with is on the money, and that is a function of being prepared, doing their homework, listening to us and respecting the fact we are all under pressure to perform.”

We source advertising agencies for companies based on a number of desired traits and capabilities. Some criteria are more easily determined than others.

Given its importance, what are the everyday behaviors that clients say demonstrate great agency work ethic?

Blueprints

It’s hard to build a house without a set of approved plans and permits. Client value agency work that is grounded in the context of a holistic plan or model; for example, customer journey mapping is a popular way to define the purpose of any given piece of communication. It often takes work to align moving parts and players this way. Integrated Plans will anchor work effort and output so marketing leaders and their agencies can inspire confidence and understanding when presenting campaigns at the c-suite level.

Conversely no overarching plan or a fragmented scope of work statement creates vulnerability. Clients will be inclined to parse out marketing projects and tasks across other accessible resources, or assign work internally to their growing in-house resources as they seek to lower costs.

Windows

Under heat, the 4A’s has released the “Transparency Guiding Principles of  Conduct,” which outline modern industry practices surrounding the issue of media transparency.

No client likes to be left in the dark, blind-sided or lacking conviction in their choice of an agency partner who may obfuscate on financial issues. Applied effort here, with support from
real-time reporting systems can ensure both parties are confident about the type and cost of the work being done.

Clients need to be able to feel confident about the value their company receives from the financial investment made with partners. Why? Marketing leaders are held accountable for this within their own companies. In turn, agencies seek clarity in contractual agreements, to be compensated fairly and to be paid in a timely manner.

Doorbells

Responsiveness is also held up as a key indicator of work ethic. Clients under pressure internally often turn to external partners with a quick text and request for help. Agencies that respond immediately become invaluable support partners.

Agencies need to work across time zones with a tag team response plan to ensure a client’s requests are immediately acknowledged, then followed-up by a response with the timing of the deliverable. And of course, the preferred answer to most client questions is “Yes. We can.”

Interior Design

From full creative campaign recommendations to opportunistic proposals for smart digital innovation, quality contributes to perceived work ethic.  Everyone can work fast, but successful agencies will deliver best quality outputs consistently, with few mistakes.

High production values in particular signal work effort, often reflected in attention to detail and overall brand quality standards.  Clients more easily approve that which they can envision – and tend to be literal by nature.

Delivery of everything as asked, and then amped up with added creative options or program enhancements, means the agency went deep into the development of work. Sometimes this above and beyond extra effort translates into more easily approved work and an official “add to scope” project. Proactive business building ideas recommended by an agency partner are always well received.

FEELS LIKE HOME

Finding and hiring the right agency with a work ethic that aligns with an advertiser’s pace and expectations can be a challenge.

At Rojek Consulting we source advertising agencies for our clients based on their advertising and scope requirements, not the least of which is cultural alignment with their partners.  Shared values as to what is important and why goes a long way to making sure the agency’s hard work is on point and meets expectations, with little wasted back and forth effort. The smoothly operating client-agency relationship becomes highly valued by both partners.

Contact us to make sure you are ready for 2019, partnering with the best agencies possible for your own brand building challenges!