How to avoid over-servicing clients! Advice from an expert...
One of the biggest problems that agencies face is over-servicing the brands with which they work. No matter what role I’ve been in, or level I’ve been at, this has always been a major challenge. And I’m a repeat offender because, most of the time, I love my job and I want to do the best for my clients – and that means throwing myself into the task at hand without always thinking about the ‘level of service’ that I am providing. But however nice this might be, it is not an effective strategy for long-term success and profitability. If not managed properly it has the potential to lose you money, damage your brand, and devalue the service you offer. Now I’m running my own strategic communications consultancy, www.fiveinaboat.com, this problem – this tricky balancing act – has never become more apparent!
So here are my 5 top pieces of advice on how to avoid over-servicing without pissing off your clients, while simultaneously providing value and getting the very best job done:
- Plan, plan and plan! In my experience most over-servicing happens when campaigns haven’t been properly planned. It’s therefore essential that, before you kick off a project, you put in place a proper scope of work and cost against it accordingly. This will not prevent over-servicing but it will start everyone off on the same page and will serve as a constant reminder of what was actually agreed on both sides, so that a project can be effectively and efficiently delivered with results that everyone signed up to.
- Focus on what is going to deliver real business value. Too many agencies spend a crazy amount of time on admin. While you need to be organised, and while setting and tracking metrics are key, no client wants to be spending 70% of their budget on charts, tables and reports. So keep reminding clients of where their money is going and invest in the right tools and people to be able to minimise time spent on necessary administration.
- Track your time and share it with your clients – that way you can focus on what’s most important and what can be scaled back. And if you and the client agree that it’s all important, then you have a good point of negotiation for a higher fee.
- Learn to say no. While there is always the concern that you may be considered unreasonable by pushing back on a client, you are not setting you or your client up for success if you say yes to everything (unless you are being paid for every yes, of course). Also, sometimes ‘no’ is the right answer. A client wants honesty and transparency and has engaged you for your consultancy. So remember that when you are still up at 1am doing something that, in the grand scheme of things, is not really delivering value for either party, you’re reducing your value as a communications professional.
- Reward your teams when they do over-service. The reality is that no matter how organised and open you are, over-servicing is par for the course especially when you are building a business. What you don’t want, however, is for your employees to resent both you and the client for the extra hours they are putting in. In addition to helping them manage their time and being open with clients, thank them in meaningful ways for their contributions. This will make them feel valued and, as a result of this, they will work harder for you. A thank you, a bottle of wine, an early finish on a Friday… it all goes a long way to building loyalty, trust and team spirit that will benefit both your agency and your clients.