Mobile/digital agencies and the client service professional

There is a common thread running through just about every brief I receive from a Mobile Marketing Agency at the moment and that thread can pretty much be summed up in the phrase “Client Service”.   For a while now briefs have been coming in from both digital and mobile asking for Technical Directors  and Project Managers who can “to talk to clients” (i.e. can provide a level of service to clients which goes above just delivery and is as much about how you say it as it is what you say).  Indeed the recently launched Digital Professional section of new media age magazine had this to say about the 2011 digital agency recruitment landscape “Agencies are crying out for staff who aren’t just more than competent at campaign execution but also expert client handlers.”

cartoon by Tom Fisburne

The current trend is for mobile agencies to start to move away from new business + project management structure and more towards the classic agency model of new business + client service + project management.  This is in turn a result of the desire for mobile to be included at more “top table” strategic discussions with clients as it becomes one of the lynch pins of client marketing strategy rather than a “nice to have” or a bolt on.  As a result some mobile agencies are now hiring Account Directors who have worked in good digital agencies or integrated agencies; not only for their ability to see the bigger marketing picture but because they will have been trained in high levels of client service and will be able to bed in, develop and retain client business  over time.  What this also does of course is provide a very real opportunity for those agency professionals who are already realizing that the way to guarantee they will be ultra in-demand in the future will be to gain experience across a variety of digital and mobile channels.

So what exactly makes a good client service person? If we accept (and most agencies seem to) that the more traditional marketing & advertising agencies often excelled in the art of client service and that it wasn’t all down to expense account lunches and corporate boxes at Wimbledon, what exactly is it that the mobile and digital agency world is hoping to buy in when they look for a senior client service professional?

Looking back over several years of interviewing hundreds of client services professionals for marcomms and advertising as well as digital agencies, I put together this list of what I thought a good client services person is:

  • Excellent communicator – verbal and written.  (This means communicating about the day to day stuff as well as the strategy big thinking stuff.)
  • Creative thinker – with a large dose of commercial acumen thrown in.
  • Good listener
  • Quick thinker
  • Persuasive
  • Diplomatic
  • Adaptable. Able to engage with and enthuse all types of colleagues and clients
  • Outgoing, upbeat and confident with a positive approach and sociable personality.
  • Committed – personally and professionally- to doing good work for their team, the  agency and the client

What they are not:

  • Arrogant
  • Sales-y

Looking to extend this list I (naturally) turned to Google and my search quickly turned up a gem – a website to promote a book by one Robert Solomon entitled  “The Art of Client Service” and a link to his blog Robert, as his Bio points out,  had a successful (25 years+) career in large agencies in the US; most recently as  President and CEO of Rapp Collins New York and previously as President of Direct and Interactive Marketing at Ammirati Puris Lintas.  So we can assume he knows what he is talking about.   Just the index to the book looked interesting – sample headings are:

Know When to Look It Up; Know When to Make It Up

Before You Give Clients What They Need, First Give Them What They Want

There is an excerpt from the book itself in which he states that the quality of integrity is one of the most important that a good client services professional can possess (along with communication skills, good judgment and the ability to generate ideas).  For the full excerpt and a more comprehensive list of skills and attributes which Richard believes make a good client services person click on:

Any Client Services Directors out there looking for training material for your team (or for yourself?)  I suspect you could do worse than buy this book.

And for a rather more earthy take on what makes a good “suit” anyone not yet familiar with the blog Adlandsuit (“kicking arse and carrying bags”) authored by UK Group Account Director Dan Shute can check it out here

And finally it is worth noting that in order for client services professionals to be good at their job, the agency they work at has to provide an environment where they are allowed to be good.  No blog entry on this subject is complete without a quote from David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy and Mather,  and here is mine:  “Superior service to our clients depends on making the most of our people. Give them challenging opportunities, recognition for achievement, job enrichment and the maximum responsibility. Treat them as grown-ups – and they will grow up. Help them in difficulty. Be affectionate and human.”

Start-ups take note. Oh and I know the cartoon doesn’t strictly speaking illustrate the theme of client service – but I just liked it…..

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