Episode 302:

We all know how critical account service people are to the success of our agencies. It’s a tough job. Account service people must balance the needs of the agency, the internal team, and of course, the clients. A rock-solid account service person can help you retain and upsell clients, delivering a higher percentage of profitability on both counts. Creating a strong and dependable account services team and process is key to your success.

Taylor McMaster is a former agency owner who discovered what she loved most about the work was the account services side of it. This realization inspired her to start a company that outsources account service people to agencies with the goal of improving agency-client relationships and allowing agency owners to step back from the day-to-day so they can concentrate on scaling their business.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Taylor and I look at several different elements to building successful account services. We discuss how to onboard new clients, ways to ensure you’re hiring the right account services people, and making the most of client relationships by understanding what they want and need from your agency. Strengthening your approach to account services gives you as the agency owner the freedom to put your focus on building your business.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

Account Services

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How to onboard a new client
  • Why agency owners aren’t always great at client services
  • How to hire strong account service people
  • Keeping the relationship fresh with long-term clients
  • What clients want from your client services
  • How to merchandise a client relationship
  • What agencies get wrong in client services
“There are so many pieces that you as an agency owner are running on a daily basis that people don’t really see from the outside.” - Taylor McMaster Click To Tweet “Onboarding a new client starts with the sales process.” - Taylor McMaster Click To Tweet “If your goal is to scale your business so that it’s not all on you, it's a really important component to have someone to who is your transition hand off.” - Taylor McMaster Click To Tweet “Going above and beyond in your day-to-day can wow clients.” - Taylor McMaster Click To Tweet “To be premium, you have to be proactive.” - Taylor McMaster Click To Tweet “We need to be very forward in asking for client feedback.” - Taylor McMaster Click To Tweet “We all want to be optimistic, but we have to be realistic with our clients or that relationship won’t last.” - Taylor McMaster Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Taylor McMaster:

Tools & Resources:

Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits, too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency Podcast, presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small-to-mid-size agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market.

We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want, down-the-road sellable. With 25-plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back if you’re a regular listener, and if this is your first one, welcome, we’re glad to have you. This week, I have a great guest and we’re going to talk about account service.

Before I start tapping her brain and getting some best practices from her, I want to remind you that we actually teach two AE boot camps. We have an advanced AE boot camp. That’s for agency folks who have been with your agency or have agency experience of four years or more. We have people with 20, 25 years of experience coming, so it’s a pretty wide range. That workshop is a two-day workshop, is in Chicago, August 17th and 18th.

Then we have the entry-level AE boot camp. That’s for people who obviously have worked in an agency for less than four years, so a lot of entry-level employees, junior AEs, account associates, project managers, titles like that. That two-day workshop also in Chicago is September 14th and 15th.

If you want your account people to come back fired up, understanding what their role is, understanding that they serve three different masters, the agency owner and the agency goals, the client and the internal team, and how to balance all of that and how to really make clients be excited about the work that they’re doing for you and together, I’m telling you, these boot camps really solve the problem.

We’d love to have you join us and we’d love to send them back to you fired up and ready to take great care of your clients while also building amazing internal relationships and really helping you achieve your goals. That is the trifecta that we help them achieve.

Without any further ado, let me just tell you a little bit about my guest. Taylor actually was an agency owner, and then she decided what she really loved about the work. Taylor McMaster, what she really decided she loved about the work was the account service side of it.

She owned an agency, was doing all the things that you do and was like, you know what, what I really love is this account service thing, and so she created an agency that outsources account service people to agencies. Now she only works four agencies and the only employee she has are other account service people.

When I heard about her, somebody introduced me to her, I was like, how does that work? I was skeptical. We know how critical account service people are and we know we want to keep those account service people very close to our vest. Outsourcing account service is not something a lot of agencies are willing to do, so I was really curious about it.

We had a conversation and she’s just so smart about this. She’s really just built this amazing business, so I just wanted to get her on the show so that you could get some best practices that she and her team have developed as they serve as the account team for agencies just like yours. Without further ado, let’s get going, because I have a lot of questions. Taylor, welcome to the podcast. Glad you can be with us.

Taylor McMaster:

Thanks, Drew. Very excited to be here.

Drew McLellan:

I gave an introduction, I gave people a little taste of who you are and what you do, but tell everybody a little bit about your company, because when you and I first met, I will admit, and I told you right away, I find it impossible that you do what you do. Given how critical account service is in an agency, that somebody could outsource it is crazy talk to me, but after we talked, I was like, “Okay, I believe it. It can be done. Taylor’s doing it.” Tell everybody a little bit about the work and how you came to this point, and then as you might imagine, I have a lot of questions.

Taylor McMaster:

Sounds good. I’m the owner of DOT & Company. We are a client account management agency for agencies. We work directly inside of various different marketing agencies and we white-label and manage clients. We are there to improve the client experience, make clients feel happy, project-manage, and of course the goal is to get the agency owner out of the day-to-day so they can scale their business while we take care of gluing the agency together. That’s the Coles Notes version of what we do.

Drew McLellan:

What I want to talk about today, then, is you have a really unique perspective, and obviously you’ve nailed it in terms of account service, which is no small task. It all starts with how you set a client up for success in the beginning. Talk to me a little bit about how you think, and again, my goal is to pick your brain so that agencies, whether they decide to outsource or they do it in all in-house, we’re going to teach them how to do it well and right. How should an agency onboard a new client? First of all, you know that most agencies don’t have a process. They just are like, “Okay, we’re going to start the work.” Walk us through what you think a best practice is.

Taylor McMaster:

I love client onboarding. I think it’s my favorite thing to talk about. How DOT & Company really stemmed was from owning my own digital marketing agency. I totally get how agency owners feel and what they’re going through on a daily basis. I still own an agency myself, of course. I’m going through all these pieces of running a business from accounting to HR to sales and marketing to admin, and there’s so many pieces as an agency owner that you are running on a daily basis that people don’t really see from the outside.

When it comes to actually having clients, of course having clients is how we have an agency, but my belief is that an onboarding process for new clients starts from the sales process. As you’re, either it’s you or your sales team is on the call with a potential client, you’re wowing them and you’re telling them how amazing your agency is and what results they’re going to get or what kind of experience they’re going to have, but if you don’t have a process and a system on the backend to really support those promises that you’re giving your clients, we all know it’s not going to work out in the end.

My belief is that whether it’s you executing this onboarding system or it’s someone else on your team, it’s really important to iron it out ahead of time and to test it and make sure that it works so that your clients are wowed, because not only as an agency owner but a consumer of so many different products and services, I want to feel like I’m the only client and I want to feel wowed. I think there’s some really important things that you can do as an agency to wow your clients from the beginning. I think we’re going to get into that, Drew, but, yeah.

Drew McLellan:

I think you’re right. I think clients think they know in their head it’s not true, but in their heart, they want to not only be your only client, but they want to be your favorite client. They want to be the one that you love on the most. Are there certain things that you think have to be baked into an onboarding process for it to take hold with a client?

Taylor McMaster:

Yes. What I always say is, there’s couple streams. Sometimes, agencies have a sales team and then they hand it over to someone internal who’s the client-facing manager. In that case, I think the most important is the handover, because a lot of times when, say, Drew, you were coming to me and you wanted to work with my agency, you’re building a relationship with me before you even sign on the line or pay an invoice.

To you, this is the relationship with the agency. Then that handover needs to be, A, seamless so that it looks like you know what you’re doing, and B, that relationship is handed over to the person who’s taking over. We wanted to feel like the client is like, “Wow, these people know what they’re doing,” and secondly, “I like this client account manager or account manager just as much as the salesperson. I’m excited.”

If you don’t know how to transition and it takes days to transition and to get them onboarded, it’s just not a good look, I don’t think, for the agency. I think that handover part is really important to get ironed out before you even start selling to clients and have that person ready to take the client.

So have the process ready so that myself as a client account manager, I know that when Bob from Agency XYZ hands me over this new client that he just sold, I know the exact email that I’m going to send that client. I’m going to customize it to that client, send them a Loom video and send them their onboarding homework within the first couple of hours, 15 minutes, ideally, because I want to be like, boom, I’m here, I’m your girl.

Drew McLellan:

Do you think there should be some overlap in the sales process? Are we getting them to meet? I think in a lot of cases, clients are like, I want to meet and know the person that I’m going to be talking to every day, because honestly, that’s where the chemistry really has to play, right?

Taylor McMaster:

Yeah. Sometimes, some agencies, what I do is if, for example, I know that the sales team’s on a number of different calls, I’ll tell them, “If you want me to send a quick Loom video to smooth over this process while you’re on the call or right after the call, just send me a quick Slack message or a Skype message and I’ll do a quick Loom for you. That’s no problem.”

Sometimes I do that when the agency is onboarding a client that might be a little bit more of a cold client or they haven’t worked with the agency or they’re not as familiar, and it’s really nice for the salesperson to have a video to say, “Hey, look, it’s not just me on the team. Here’s Taylor or here’s Drew who’s going to be working directly with you. She just wanted to give you a quick hello and welcome to the agency.” Oftentimes, that will give the potential client that feeling of, “Oh, wow, they’re already going above and beyond for me. What are they going to do when I’m a client?” It just helps to sell.

Drew McLellan:

In a lot of agencies, it’s not a salesperson that’s agency owner, right?

Taylor McMaster:

Oh, yeah. Most of the time, yes.

Drew McLellan:

Doing the selling? Right, yeah. Again, it’s critical to hand off that client, because otherwise, the client, all of a sudden the agency owner’s the client’s will be, and they’ve got their arm wrapped around their leg and they’re like, I love this person, and then it’s really hard to extract that person, which is then now the owner’s back into account service, which is of course not where they belong.

Taylor McMaster:

Oh, you have definitely hit on a really big point there, because what I find with most agency owners, and I found this myself when I was running my own agency, was that when you’re the agency owner, the whole thing is you. You feel responsible for the brand, for every little piece of the business.

When you onboard a client, you feel so responsible for everything. Sometimes if clients have feedback on the creative or they have feedback on the copy, you take it so personally, whereas what I find is when I’m working in an agency and I’m the client account manager or the client service person and I am keeping that relationship and the project, yes, I feel accountable and I care about this client and the agency so much, but it takes that personalization out of it a little bit.

I always tell agency owners, if you’re the one on a sales call and then you’re the one also project-managing and doing the client service, you are never going to get out of it. If that’s your goal, totally fine, that’s absolutely fine, but if your goal is to scale your business so that it’s not all on you, it’s a really key component to have someone to transition the relationship over to you, or else we all know it’s always going to be us forever and ever and ever.

Drew McLellan:

And, let’s be honest, most agency owners, not awesome at detail.

Taylor McMaster:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

Speaking personally as an agency owner, that’s not my gift. My gift is big picture, not, oh, 12 little details that have to be done today. There really aren’t great account service people, anyway, right?

Taylor McMaster:

Right.

Drew McLellan:

So we need to get them out of it for a variety of reasons.

Taylor McMaster:

100%, and for the client’s sake, and one of my values and what we bring into our agency is I believe clients deserve really great client experiences. A lot of the agency owners that I work with are so brilliant when it comes to marketing and strategy and sales, but when it comes actually following a process, they just love to go rogue and do something out of the SOP.

Drew McLellan:

Every single day. Yes.

Taylor McMaster:

Right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Taylor McMaster:

And that’s okay that they-

Drew McLellan:

Now they want the agency to have SOPs, but they want to pass on following them, right?

Taylor McMaster:

Right. Exactly, and that’s fine, and that’s the goal. My goal when working in agencies is I want the agency owner to be out of the day-to-day, meaning out of the SOPs, out of the processes, out of the client onboarding, and I want them to have a quick email to me, whether it’s a Loom video or the call recording or just quick notes of what we’re doing for this client, then just give it to me or your client service person because you shouldn’t be in the way.

Drew McLellan:

Right, and we don’t mean to be in the way, but we are, if we’re honest with ourselves, in the way, if we’re being really candid.

Taylor McMaster:

Yeah. The agency owner should be doing the big visionary things, like you said. They should be dreaming up the next thing or talking strategy or overlooking the team and the goals. That’s where your genius should be best used. Of course, if you’re looking to scale, it’s important to put people in place who can take that personalization out a little bit for you.

Drew McLellan:

Let’s talk about putting people in place. Right now, we’re recording this in June of 2021, in case someone is not listening in real time or is listening to this in 2025, right now we’re coming out of pandemic and hiring is tough, and people are having a hard time especially finding account service people.

Then, you of course have to worry if there are going to be good account service people. You have a very stable team of account service people that have been with you a really long time, and your client retention is crazy. Clearly you’ve figured out how to hire for an account service position. What are your SOPs around hiring great account service people that we can steal for ourselves?

Taylor McMaster:

Great question. I will echo that hiring client service people is very challenging, especially in the agency world, because we are looking for this person who is a really great communicator, bubbly personality, can work in different timezones, has marketing experience, and then drilling down even further has specific marketing experience to your agency. It gets very tricky.

Over the last number of years, we’ve tried various different hiring processes, and I think we’ve got it pretty nailed down now. There are so many different components that I believe are important when hiring.

Whenever you’re looking to hire this type of role, I think it’s important to go a little bit broad and have different steps in your hiring funnel to really weed people out. We now have someone in-house who specifically does all of our hiring for us, but how we look at our SOP of hiring is, first, we post the job with very specific items that we’re looking for this person to do to even submit their application.

We have put together a Typeform that asks people a bunch of different questions about their experience, and then we also have a spot where they can elaborate and show their written communication skills, because as agency owners, we know that written communication is so, so, so important, so we give people the opportunity to actually outline their written comms before we even get on the phone with them.

They send that in, they send in their application, and then we have it automated internally so that all the applications come through if they’re a good fit and you can set up your Typeform to actually filter people through, and you’re only going to see the people who are a good fit based on their experience. That comes right into our project management software.

Our hiring manager reviews them, and then, in our SOP for hiring, we have specific email templates for various different outcomes of their application. So then she’ll send them an email with a 15-minute coffee date. The goal of this coffee date is not only to just meet them about the role, but we’re looking for so many different things: Did they show up on time? Did they present themself well on the Zoom call? Did they ask questions? Were they bubbly and friendly or were they super awkward on Zoom? Because this is a client service role. If you can’t be confident in yourself and confident on a Zoom call, what are you going to be like with a new client? All these things, we’ll looking for in this 15-minute coffee date.

Then after that, if they progress to the next stage and they fit the personality and all these checkpoints of written communication and soft skills, then we send them an actual assessment. This takes about an hour. They have to follow very specific outlined questions and they go through and we’re looking for very detailed written communication, as well as marketing experience that we’re hiring for.

In there, a little hot tip that we have added in is, at the end, we give a bonus question. We get the person to film a video of themselves talking about why they’re a really great client account manager. I’ve added this into our hiring process because of the role. When you’re hiring a client service person, again, they have to have a strong personality. They have to be able to get on the camera and film themselves because that’s part of premium client service. You have to be able to send Loom videos to clients and send videos to clients.

We’re looking for all these extra steps that they’re even going through before they get even onto a formal interview. By the time that our director of the agency is even meeting with this potential hire, they have basically passed all of the different steps to get there. I know, it’s a lot.

Drew McLellan:

It is, but it should be a lot. This is the person who holds the relationship with the client. If this goes badly, that money walks right out the door.

Taylor McMaster:

Yeah. Retention is worth so much money in your agency. We all know that if you can keep your clients happy and keep them on even just three months longer, how much is that worth to your agency?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Taylor McMaster:

So then, in our hiring process, again, we have a training suite that we have developed for our team. Before they even, again, come to work with us, they go through our CAM school, which is our full client account management training program, so then by the time they’re hired, they’ve been vetted in various different scenarios and methods, they’ve gone through our training, interviews, met with all of our team, and then they get hired.

Like you said at the beginning, Drew, hiring a client service person is very hard, but it’s very important in my eyes to go through a very detailed hiring process if these people are going to be managing your clients.

Drew McLellan:

One thing probably to point out is that in your work, you guys are all remote, and so everything is done … You just said a couple things about video. I just want the audience to understand that you’re never meeting clients in person.

Taylor McMaster:

No. We’re fully remote. Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Which again, outsourcing account service seems crazy, remote account service people seem crazy, and yet it’s working for you. As you know, I find this all fascinating.

One of the things that I think happens over time is when we’ve worked with a client for a while, we’ll have clients say to us all the time, because we do a lot of client satisfaction surveys and stuff like that, and they’ll say, “When they wanted our business, boy, they were loving on us. They sent us flowers on Tuesday and they’d call just because and they asked about our kids. Now we’ve been with them three years and we don’t even get flowers on our anniversary anymore.” They just feel like we’re taking them for granted. How do you teach your team to keep that fresh, we-just-started-dating feeling with clients?

Taylor McMaster:

Good question. My philosophy with client management is always that you want to make someone feel the way you want them to feel. Always put yourself in someone else’s shoes. What would you have to do to make them feel wowed or what would you have to do to make them feel like they’re your only client? Sometimes, yes, it’s a little gift that you mail, but oftentimes I have a stack of cards on my desk and sometimes I pull them out and I write my client a handwritten card and I pop it in the mail, and that goes over better than flowers, better than chocolates. Look at you.

Drew McLellan:

I’m all about cards. I am all about cards.

Taylor McMaster:

There you go. Because who gets written cards anymore?

Drew McLellan:

I know. I think it’s a lost art.

Taylor McMaster:

I think it costs you a dollar or two dollars and it’s just an easy wow. If they’re sitting there and your client was maybe having a bad day or you got really great results on their campaigns and you just want to send something, that’s an easy thing to do.

Another easy one is a Starbucks card online. You can just quickly go on Starbucks, send over a $5 gift card and say, “Hey, Drew, I really wish I could’ve taken you for a coffee today, but hope this will do. Treat yourself. On me,” type thing. That’s $5. That’s so easy. Those are things you can do in between these milestone moments that I think are … just pop it in your inbox or you wake up and you get a little card in the mail.

I think those little things are wow moments, but then also how we treat this internally is that in our DOT & Co Slack channel, we have a gifting channel. Oftentimes, we’ll all be posting really cool ideas like, “Oh, I saw thing called Lula’s Garden in the US.” You can send these to your clients. They’re just a little succulent. They’re about $20, $30. You can send them and it’s just a nice little gift. You can say, “I’m so excited to grow together. Cheers, Taylor,” type thing. Just always coming up with really cool, new ideas that don’t really cost a whole lot of money is just we’re always bringing top of mind.

What we do internally for our clients is very similar to how I would work inside of another agency. You sign a new client, even inside of our training programs, we will send them a little something in the mail as well with a handwritten note from our training manager, just those little touches that go a long way.

Drew McLellan:

I think it’s very cliché, but I do think clients want to know that we actually care. It’s not just that we’re trying to help them accomplish their goals, but we actually care about them as people, that we are as invested in their work and the work we’re doing together as they are, and I think anything you can do that hints at that.

I’m a big fan of, once you get to know your clients, you know the stuff that they like. If you have a client that’s got three kids, sending them a $25 Dairy Queen gift card and saying, “Take the family out for ice cream,” says not only do I care about you, but I also know you, and I know what matters to you, and so I’m helping you do something that matters to you.

Taylor McMaster:

Exactly, yeah. The more that you can learn about, are they wine drinkers, are they people that love to go on trips down south, maybe you could send them a little care package before their next vacation. Sometimes clients will send me gifts and I’m like, “What? I’m supposed to be sending you something,” but generally when that happens, it’s when we go above and beyond.

For most clients, it’s not even something that you would really know that you’re doing that’s extra. Sometimes if a client emails me and they’re a little bit stressed about something, if they’re in a panic and I jump in and I’m like, “Let’s jump on a call. I’m free in 15 minutes. Let’s get this hammered out,” and just by going through that and just helping them when they need it, and they’re stressed, alleviate that, that is worth everything to them. Going above and beyond in just your day-to-day can wow clients as well.

Drew McLellan:

That’s a great point. I think part of our job is, when everybody else is in a panic, to be the calm in that and say, “Okay, you know what? I’m available. Let’s get this taken care of. I’ve got it.” Agency clients are usually in a pressure cooker situation. They don’t have a lot of allies inside their own organization, so when you become their trusted ally and you become the one that helps them put out the fire, and no matter when the fire happens, if it’s a Friday night or it’s over the weekend or whatever, I often, in the AE boot camp we teach I say, “If you want a nine-to-five Monday-through-Friday job, you need to go to the local bank and become a teller,” because that’s not our world, right?

Taylor McMaster:

100% agree. Yeah. Our model is always, be available. Just be available for your clients. We all know those people who you can call at any time and they’re going to answer. You want to be that person to your clients. Not to say that you have to be on all the time and that you have to bend over backwards all the time, but if you’re available and you make your clients feel like you’re there for them, that goes so, so far.

I think that’s why client retention can be so high is when you make your clients feel like you’re there for them and put yourself in their shoes and just know that you’re going to give them that premium client experience that they deserve.

Drew McLellan:

I think so, too. I have a question for you. I know you have something that’s your secret weapon, so I’m going to ask you about that, but just to entice the audience, we’re going to take a quick break first, then we’ll come back and talk about that.

I’m really sorry to interrupt the show because I know that you are into it, but I promise we’ll get right back into it. I couldn’t miss this opportunity to tell you about a workshop that we’re teaching to build and nurture your agency sales funnel. This is a workshop that I teach with Stephen Woessner and it is the next step after you read our book, Sell With Authority.

This is all about building a new business machine that works every day to attract right-fit clients right to your front door. This workshop is a little different than some of our workshops. This is much more a hands-on workshop. There’s a lot of homework that you’re going to actually do in the workshop, because we want you to leave the two days with a completed marketing and sales plan.

I’m talking tactics. I’m talking timetable. I’m talking who’s going to do what at your agency. You’re going to leave with it built out and ready to implement the very next week. We know that if we taught you how to do it, or we didn’t make you do it in the workshop, by the time you got back in the office and all the craziness that waits for you there, it would never get done.

That’s why we built this workshop this way, and it’s been very well-received, and in fact it’s back by popular demand. This workshop is January 20th and 21st in Orlando, Florida, on beautiful Disney property. If you are ready to kick off the new year being serious about biz dev and really separating out prospects who aren’t that good for you or aren’t going to be profitable for the ones that are going to love you, stay with you and help you make money, come to the workshop. Let us show you how. All right? Let’s get back to the show.

All right, we are back and we are talking about account service and doing that with excellence, whether you are in person with clients or you’re doing it remote. Taylor, I know you have something called the Daily Pulse, which you think is your super secret weapon to really connect and make clients happy. Tell us what that is.

Taylor McMaster:

Yes. The Daily Pulse is something that we have coined over here at DOT & Company. It all stems back to, how do we create premium client experiences? To me, my theory is, to be premium, you have to be proactive. We all know that in order to be proactive, you have to be constantly on your clients. You have to be communicating, whether there’s something to communicate or not.

The Daily Pulse is essentially a reminder for yourself as an account manager, to pulse with your client every day. That doesn’t mean that you’re sending a report every day or that you’re sending them a gift every day. It means that you are showing up for your clients every day so that they feel like they’re your only one.

Oftentimes what I do is I have inside of every agency an actual SOP of email templates and processes and systems. In the Daily Pulse section, I have a whole slew of different emails so that if I’m like, okay, I need to pulse with this client today, what can I say? Sometimes it is, “Hey, Drew, we don’t have your ads running yet, but here’s the next step. Be in touch tomorrow,” “Hey, Drew, no updates yet, but I promise you I’m following up with the creative team. They’re in the final editing stages. I’ll get back to you tomorrow,” so that they always feel like they don’t have to reach out to you. You are there before them.

There’s this analogy I’ve heard before. Let’s say, for example, you order a new car. You go into the dealership and you’re working with the salesperson. They’re like, “Great, it’s going to be here in three months.” This literally happened to me. It’s going to be here in three months.

Drew McLellan:

What kind of car did you order that it was going to take three months?

Taylor McMaster:

It’s during COVID, so-

Drew McLellan:

Oh, okay. All right.

Taylor McMaster:

It’s nothing fancy.

Drew McLellan:

Okay.

Taylor McMaster:

You’re in the dealership and they’re like, “Okay, it’s going to be three months,” but then three months goes by and you’re like, oh, I haven’t heard in three months. I don’t even know what’s going on. Then, you call them, they’re like, “Oh, it’s been delayed. It’s going to be another two and a half.”

Wow. I would’ve rather heard every week that it’s not here yet, here’s some updates, rather than me calling in three months and it’s going to be another three. How can you give little pulses that are reminding clients that you’re there, that you’re thinking about them, you’re working on their account?

Drew McLellan:

And you’re on it.

Taylor McMaster:

You’re on it. It goes so far. The Daily Pulse is something that we have inside of our project management system under each client. Every single client, you have to check off every day, it’s a pulse. It doesn’t have to be annoying. It’s just a reminder that that client is there.

Drew McLellan:

Is there a certain time of day that you pulse with your clients? Is it towards the end of the day?

Taylor McMaster:

Nothing in particular. It depends on what’s going on, but inside of every agency I work in, I have a very detailed to-do list that I’m checking every day. For example, this morning, one of my daily pulses, I’m going back and seeing, when did I last email this client? It was yesterday. I sent this report. He hasn’t responded yet. I’m going to give him until the end of the day, and then I’m just going to send a quick check-in to see if he has any questions. Just a reminder that I’m still here, waiting for him, and if he has questions, I’m here for him.

Drew McLellan:

One of the things that we talk about in the boot camp is one of the things that irritates account service people is that their clients micromanage them. They’re always checking in to ask where stuff is. What I say is, well, what they’re telling you is, “I need more reassurance. I need to know that things are in progress.”

Because account people are like, well, I don’t want to bother them, they’re super busy, but I’m like, no, the silence is the most horrible thing of all because they don’t know. Then if one of their coworkers comes and goes, “Hey, Bob, where’s the blah blah blah?” they are like, “I don’t know,” and so then they look stupid inside their organization.

Clients by and large would prefer to do exactly what you’re talking about is, just ping me really quickly and give me an update. I know that you’ve got it, and that where everything is at, so if I get asked, I have the answer, I look smart. I look like I’m buttoned up.

Taylor McMaster:

Yes. I think a big thing is also covering your tracks. As a client service person, if the agency comes and says, “Where are we at with Client XYZ?” you have a track record that you have communicated with this client every day, here’s all the updates, you’re over-delivering to these clients, and it’s just covering yourself and making you look good as a client service person. A lot of people working in agencies, they’re spending a lot of money to work with the agency. We need to be making sure that we are over-delivering and giving them the value that they deserve.

Drew McLellan:

One of the things that you hope happens is that you’re doing a good job and the client loves you, and one of the things agencies are not awesome at is merchandising the fact that they have clients that love them. Obviously one way to do that is to get feedback from the client, testimonials, things like that. What kinds of things like that do you help your clients, the agencies, how do you help them merchandise the relationship that they have with their clients?

Taylor McMaster:

It’s a good one. I think you’re right, a lot of people almost don’t ask for feedback and they just fly under the radar and just hope that the client’s happy. I think we need to flip that. I think we need to be very forward in asking for feedback and asking for testimonials because it not only makes you look good, but it also makes sure that if there’s something wrong, you know about it before the client has fired you or has given you a bad name.

Some things that I like to do inside of our agency and as well as the agencies we work inside are client happiness surveys. This can look different for every agency, but you can automate them so that you’re asking for continuous feedback. For example, inside of DOT, when we bring on a new agency, I have a two-week check-in that’s automated to the agency owner. It says, “Three-minute survey from DOT & Company. How are we doing?”

It’s just quickly, are up to snuff on X, Y, Z? Yes, no, yes, no, and that’s it, so that we have a gut check two weeks in, how are we doing. In a month, I’m asking for a little bit more detailed feedback. “Are you happy?” Then I’m pulling in some pain points that my client would have. Have we helped you get more time back in your day? Have you helped you with X, Y, Z? Whatever that looks like.

Then they’re reassuring you that you’re doing a good job, that you’re servicing them well, and they’re verbalizing the fact that you’re amazing, obviously. Then, after about six weeks, you can confidently send them a happiness survey that at the end says, “Would you mind giving us a quick snippet of why you’re so happy working with us?”

That can be either written form, you can ask them to do a video, you can ask them to do a voice memo, whatever that looks like for your agency, add that in. Because they’ve already said, “You’re amazing. You’re amazing. You’re amazing,” and then it’s so much easier to ask them for referrals or testimonials because it’s layered on top of-

Drew McLellan:

You’ve gotten them into the habit of saying, “You’re amazing.”

Taylor McMaster:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Oh, you’re sneaky.

Taylor McMaster:

Yeah. We do this with them for referrals as well. We bring on someone and we send them a quick check-in and we say, “How are things going? Rate on a scale of one to five. Do you have anyone on your network who you think could benefit from our services?” A lot of times people say, “Yes, I already refer you,” or “Actually, I do. I’ll email you,” or something like that.

It’s just an easy way to firstly automate it is really important so that you don’t have to remember because I know all of us agency owners are not only busy but we don’t want to ask for testimonials, but B, you’re already asking them for feedback, and then of course, if there’s any negative feedback, you can get on top of it quicker by getting these consistent feedback.

Drew McLellan:

I think part of it, too, is finding out that something’s not quite right in the early stages before it festers and becomes something that is big enough that they’re like, yeah, we need to start shopping for another agency.

Taylor McMaster:

Exactly. I think we have all probably had that experience when you get blindsided by a client that’s not happy or just isn’t getting the results they’re looking for, and I’m always like, oh, my gosh, I would’ve loved to hear this two months ago.

All of those learnings come, and that’s how you build these processes that I’m talking about is, why not ask? Why not ask straight up? How are we doing? How can we do better? Because we can all do better and maybe it’s just, “I want to hear from you more,” or “I want more creative coming at me for approval.” Great. We can do that. No problem. Then you can go above and beyond.

Drew McLellan:

You’ve been doing these happiness surveys for a while. Are there things that, can you see, oh, there’s a pattern. A lot of clients, this makes them unhappy, or a lot of clients, they really love this. What do the happiness surveys teach you?

Taylor McMaster:

Good question. Oftentimes within agencies, the number-one thing that I see clients aren’t as happy with are sometimes the digital advertising results for the first month or so. If you’re in digital marketing, you know that the first month is tricky and there’s a lot of testing and optimizing and getting things off the ground.

If clients are saying, “I’m not happy with the results,” you quickly learn, I need to set better expectations on the sales call, or I need to set better expectations of the results they can expect on the kickoff call. You’re thinking back to, where did I go wrong, or where could I have optimized this? Maybe it’s when I send the first-week report, I should do a Loom video and say, “Listen, these results aren’t as amazing as we are going to be seeing in two months, but as we discussed, we’re optimizing at this stage, so we’re happy.”

Drew McLellan:

I think part of it is continually setting and resetting expectations, right?

Taylor McMaster:

Exactly. Yeah. It not only helps your clients, but it helps cover you, because obviously we want clients to get good results. We’re in the business of marketing. We’re here to grow people’s businesses, but if you have set those expectations with the client and they understand you’re all on the same page, it’s just so much easier in the long run instead of over-promising through the sales process in the first month. We all want to be optimistic, but we have to be realistic with our clients, or that relationship won’t last.

Drew McLellan:

At the end of the day, what do you think clients want most from their account service people?

Taylor McMaster:

I think the human element. I think in 2021, the human element can be lost when we’re working remotely, so I always urge agency owners to just put themselves in the client shoes. How would you want to be treated? How would you want this email to make you feel? How do you want to be communicated with?

Just go above and beyond for your clients because it doesn’t take that long to send a warm email instead of a quick snippet. Send a nice warm email or a Loom video or jump on an extra call with a client when they need you, but always put that human element back in to make the client feel the way you want them to feel.

Drew McLellan:

Your expertise is meaningless if the client doesn’t feel like you actually care and that you’re invested in them, I think.

Taylor McMaster:

Yes. 100%, yeah.

Drew McLellan:

All right. I’m curious to see if I’ve actually already asked you this question by accident and you’ve already shared it or if you have something else. You had said to me earlier that you believe that there’s one small thing that we can do that will go a long way in solidifying the client relationship. Have we already talked about that?

Taylor McMaster:

I think all of these things pull that together, but definitely having a really streamlined onboarding process to show that you know what you’re doing can be getting and show that you’re experienced and organized. If you can have someone to hand over the relationship to, it’ll help you as the agency owner take things less personally and help you scale, because you’re out of the day-to-day and you can focus on the things you need to focus on if someone else in your business is there for your clients, and you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing, which is probably not organizing your project management software.

Drew McLellan:

Probably not, yeah. There’s a bunch of people out there looking for account service people right now. Is there one trait or characteristic that for you is non-negotiable? If they don’t have this thing, whatever that thing is, then you’re like, no, they filled out the form right, they’re great communicators, whatever it is, but they don’t have this; what is it?

Taylor McMaster:

Yeah. Internally, we call it DOT Vibes, which is essentially, how does this person make you feel? If you get on an interview with them and they have the experience, they have the written comms, they have the track record, but they don’t make you feel good, they’re a no, because if they don’t make you feel good, they’re not going to make your clients feel great and it’s just going to ruin your relationship. It always comes back to that feeling and that gut check of, are these people the right fit? If you get a no, it’s a no.

Drew McLellan:

So often I think agency owners are so anxious to get someone hired, and they’ve been looking for so long that they taught themselves into hiring someone, and they ignore that there’s just something not quite right. I don’t get the vibe, the warmth, the whatever it is, and that rarely works out well for them, but I get why they do it.

Taylor McMaster:

We’ve all done it. I get it.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, afraid we’ve all done it.

Taylor McMaster:

I’ve done it.

Drew McLellan:

Of course.

Taylor McMaster:

Of course, and you reflect on those experiences and you probably always say, “My gut feeling was that was a no,” so I always go with that.

Drew McLellan:

Every day I talk to an agency owner and they’ll say, “I knew this,” and I was like, “And yet you did it.” Right?

Taylor McMaster:

Yup.

Drew McLellan:

We’re all guilty of it.

Taylor McMaster:

Of course.

Drew McLellan:

This has been great. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise. If people want to learn more about your company or reach out and contact you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Taylor McMaster:

Definitely reach out. We’re over at www.dotandcompany.co, or of course you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and reach out. If you are looking for help or you need an onboarding process, you can download ours for free, the one we actually use, and just work to optimize that client experience. It’s always going to be ever-flowing and changing and there’s always going to be things you can improve, but definitely it’s a work in progress.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much.

Taylor McMaster:

Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

Drew McLellan:

All right, guys. This wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Taylor gave you a lot of homework. She didn’t call it homework, but that’s what it was. I think you can take a lot of what we talked about today and do some gut checks on how your account service team is doing and where you can improve. You know. You know in your heart of hearts that if you get this part wrong, you’re screwed, because this is the person who owns the relationship with the client, this is the person who upsells or doesn’t upsell the client, this is the person who retains or doesn’t retain the client. Having rock stars in account service is really a critical …

When I look at the agencies that really weather pretty much every storm well, they have consistency, their AEs stick around for a really long time, and they really are good relationship builders and masters … and it’s not just with the client, by the way. A great account service person, we didn’t even get into this, but a great account service person understands that they serve many masters. They serve the client, they serve your internal team, and they serve you and your goals.

Hiring well for this position is critical, and I think Taylor gave you a lot of great ideas of how to look at the team you currently have and decide if you need to trade up or next time you’re shopping for an AE that you can start thinking about some of these things a little differently. Lots of homework for you today, which you know I love. I love episodes that give you work to do.

All right, quickly before I let you go, huge shout-out to our friends at White Label IQ. As you know, White Label PPC, dev and design for many, many agencies, and they have a free offer for you, some free hours. Go to whitelabeliq.com/ami and grab that offer as a podcast listener.

I just want to say this, and I know I say it all the time and you’re probably tired of me saying it, but I’ll go say it anyway: I know how crazy busy you are and I am just delighted every time you show up to hang out with me for an hour. I am grateful for you. I’m here to help. I just want to thank you for your time and, as always, serve the community that we’ve built together.

I’m grateful for you and I’m glad that you were here, and I’m pretty glad that you were here to hear Taylor’s message because I think it is a very important one. In the meantime, I’ll be back next week with another guest. You can always track me down at [email protected] All right? See you next week.

Thanks for spending some time with us. Visit our website to learn about our workshops, owner peer groups, and download our salary and benefits survey. Be sure you also sign up for our free podcast giveaways at agencymanagementinstitute.com/podcastgiveaway.