Working with clients: “it’s not just what you do; it’s the way that you do it”
Service providers should be quick to adapt their way of working according to client needs. Flexible business models can give competitive edge.
Clients increasingly want to see more flexible ways of working from service providers. A one-size-fits-all approach no longer works when clients’ business and operational structures are changing rapidly. This calls not only for changes in processes but cultural shifts as well.
Recently, we’ve been speaking to a number of clients who have been visit this site frustrated about the way that their key suppliers are structured to handle their business.
It was brought into sharp focus a few weeks ago when we met with a large well-known international packaged goods client. It had just gone through yet another global reorganisation, restructured its business and, not surprisingly, decided to review and consolidate its ad agencies.
Two were asked to pitch. The first gave a solid presentation but the second, and eventual winner, went the extra mile. It restructured the way that it would service the client and created a bespoke model to reflect the new way that the client wanted to do business.
This reflects an overall trend from clients who really want to see more flexible ways of working from services providers.
The problem for many large ‘super tanker’ types of agencies is that they continue to struggle to make themselves nimble and flexible and many only have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It’s a great irony that the business that promotes new ideas and creative thinking is probably the most change adverse of all.
Compare this to many leading professional service firms who recognise that adapting ways of working is now a fact of life and adjusting their ways to working to fit their clients’ needs can give them a competitive edge.
Some go a stage further. They hold regular workshops with all the key stakeholders from the firm and the client to discuss how things are working and, importantly, what needs adapting or changing to ensure efficiency and a win-win for both parties.
To be fair, some creative agencies have recognised this and don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. Interpublic for example, offers clients a range of what it calls ‘relationship models’. (http://www.interpublic.com/clientsolutions).
In the future inevitably we’ll see more client service managers being skilled and prepared to work with different clients in different ways. Something that’s easier said than done. It’s going to need not only a process shift but also a cultural change to the way that account managers work with various clients.
Yet it would also be dangerous to think that whatever model you start to work with will be set in stone for a particular client. Clients’ businesses and operational structures are changing rapidly and service providers will need to create flexible business models that can profitably adapt to new needs.
While you certainly can be sure client relationship management was the last thing on his mind, perhaps we can all learn from George Bernard Shaw when he wrote:
“The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor.
He takes my measurements anew each time he sees me.
The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them”
When was the last time we all took our clients’ measurements?