When I first started in the agency business 90% of all meetings took place at the agency because clients had the time. Now RAM estimates that up to 80% of meetings take place at the client’s office.

Clients and their suppliers are trying to squeeze more and more into an already crowded schedule. Here’s another eye-opening statistic: we estimate that clients spend between as little as 5-7% of their week with their service providers, from business and professional services firms through to agencies. If those firms are doing a really good job, it will be even less.

speed

That’s because the best suppliers will strive to understand how the client’s time is spent and make sure that they maximise what time they do have. They do this by delivering work right first time round, because they have such an in-depth understanding of the business and what clients want.

Some providers go even further. We’re seeing some clients, like Kia, introduce a key supplier room at its offices. Others, like Target in the US, have a building next door to their offices where their suppliers can have representation. The closer a supplier gets to a client, the better – and more profitable – their service will become.

Trading places, or secondments, are another route that has appealed in the past to brands such as BT, British Airways, Heinz and the Sunday Times. Swapping places not only encourages different mind-sets, it also fosters creativity and stronger links with suppliers.

There’s no denying that it’s a difficult relationship to manage. Constant accessibility can lead to burn-out and the destruction of work/life balance. But speed to market is increasingly a competitive point of difference for clients.

So they want to be able to get hold of their suppliers at the precise moment they need to. And everyone, from the most senior to the most junior people at the suppliers, has to understand this.

Let’s sum it up this way: voice mail is the enemy of good service.