Episode 48

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Chantell Glenville is the author of “What Clients Really Want (And The S**t That Drives Them Crazy)” the first ever book on how to create great client/agency relationships written by an ex-client. Winner of the WACL Future Leader’s Award 2013, Chantell has worked at some of the UKs top creative communications agencies such as AMV BBDO, VCCP, and Dare as well as client-side at Vodafone, a multinational teleco.

Her experience both client and agency-side has given her a unique insight into the situations and behaviours that can really break client/agency relationships or make them excellent. Chantell has worked with and for agencies with varying specialties and on a broad range of clients; from international blue chips such as Johnson & Johnson, Barclaycard, Molson Coors, and Henkel through to high profile UK and pan-European accounts.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Things agencies do over and over that drive clients crazy
  • The small behaviors that break apart relationships
  • What agencies don’t know about the world clients live in
  • The complexity of the structure of clients’ systems
  • How agencies can help clients manage the revision process
  • Why you need to know more than one person inside your client’s company (and get to know them face-to-face)
  • The working hour differences between agencies and clients
  • Why you should never overpromise and underdeliver
  • The two things that create great agency-client relationships
  • Why attention to detail is so important for agencies
  • How to get to the top of a client’s to-do list
  • Reasons clients will fire agencies (and why they never want to do that)
  • Things agency owners can do right now to help their account executives improve agency-client relationships

 

The Golden Nugget:

“Agencies get fired because of a breakdown in the relationship.” – @chantellglenvi Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody, Drew McClellan here. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency. This podcast is designed for you, the agency owner, and your staff to help you build bigger, better, stronger agencies, and to have a little more fun along the way. Today’s topic is one that I think is vital to agencies. So one of the things we’re finding in a lot of the work we’re doing with agencies is that it’s not just agencies you compete with anymore. Nowadays media companies can do everything that… I’m doing this in a air quotes, by the way. Media companies can do everything agencies do, and agencies are built… Our clients are building in-house agencies and trying to be agencies. So you really got competition nipping at your heels from all directions.

One of the things that makes agencies distinct and is a value proposition that you offer clients is the way that we serve our clients through our account service teams. And a lot of you know how vital your account folks are, that literally they are the ones who are not only helping you keep your clients, but they are the ones who are helping you grow those clients. One of the things we teach in the AMI workshops is that about 70% of an agency’s new business, new revenue should be coming from existing clients. So your account service team, whether you come call them account execs or account managers or whatever name you call them, they’re vital to the health of your agency, and them creating lasting, strong, consultative relationships with your clients is really critical to your agency’s long term health. So lots of agencies invest in their account service folks. A lot of people have started hiring them young and then growing them into really great account leaders.

However you approach account service. There are some things that we know are best practices around that we teach some of those in our AE boot camps, but today’s guest is coming at it from a very unique perspective. So Chantell Glenville is an author of a book called What Clients Really Want, and, the quote unquote, Shit That Drives Them Crazy: The Essential Insiders Guide for Advertising Agencies on How Account Management Can Create Great Client Agency Relationships. And what’s beautiful about that is that she comes at this from the perspective of having been a client. So she spent seven years agency side, and then she went over to the client side. So she’s seen it from both perspectives, and the book is really all about… Think of it as what an ex client or what a client or an ex client would love to say to you and your account team if they knew that they could. So with that, I am going to welcome Chantell to the podcast. Chantell, thanks for joining us today.

Chantell Glenville:

Thank you, Drew. Thank you for the very nice introduction.

Drew McLellan:

Your book is great. So I enjoyed it and I found myself nodding my head. So let’s dig in. What are a couple things that account service folks do that drive clients nuts?

Chantell Glenville:

Well, I don’t… So I think an important point on it is that I don’t think any of the stuff that account service folks do that drives clients nuts is intentional by any means.

Drew McLellan:

Nope, absolutely not. You’re right.

Chantell Glenville:

I think it just comes about through essentially a lack of understanding, and that’s why I wrote the book in the first place, and my viewpoint on it is that a lot of people in account servicing, unfortunately, they don’t work client side and they’ve never worked client side, or they spend years agency side first and then maybe go client side later. So it means that that that fundamental understanding of what the client’s world is like, what their pressures at play are, what their day to day goings about are, what their internal structures are, it just isn’t there. So it can lead to a lot of, not even necessarily big things, really small things, which make the clients’ lives harder, and so annoy them over time without even the agency realizing in any way whatsoever.

For example, one of the big ones that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen this when I’ve worked agency side and also client side, it’s the same issues that come up time and time again that break down these relationships. So one of the examples off the top of my head is when work is going to be delayed. And obviously, as you know, at agencies that happens all the time. Sometimes files take longer to explore than expected, creative reviews don’t go as you thought they would. And clients understand that. They know that timings move. But what you see frequently, one of the behaviors that pops up, is that when that happens, instead of the agency picking up the phone and talking to the client, giving regular updates as to when the work will be through, they actually disappear, which might sound like a stretch, but it’s true, and it happens time and time again, and they properly disappear.

And of course that’s easier for account management. Then they don’t have to deal with the awkward conversation and in their minds, they wait. I mean, I’ve been guilty of this myself, even, agency side. I’m not pointing the finger by any means. You kind of wait until you’re like, “Well, I’ll wait until I’ve got some good news to tell the client, till I can tell them it’s definitely going to be there then,” rather than actually bringing the client in on the journey and letting them be fully aware of everything that’s going on so that they can better manage the internal situation. And they need that awareness in order to manage their internal situations, in order to manage their boss who’s breathing down their ear, or the review they might have coming up with all the senior stakeholders. And they can’t do that without those open and honest conversations. So it might seem like small thing, especially if it’s a half hour delay or something like that, but it can make a huge difference to the client, and it’s not that this situation is going to change. The work is still late either way.

But that work being late can either be a small thing and can be, “Okay, all right, that’s not ideal. The work is late, but we’re all fine. You managed the situation well.” Or it can turn into a really big issue that starts to build client side, time and time again with these situations are mismanaged. So it’s about trying to stop those small behaviors that build into these big things and destroy the relationship. And as you said before, there’s lots of competition coming from all sides to take clients from agencies. And the sad truth is that even when agencies are producing great work, they still get fired. And it’s usually because of a breakdown in the relationship when that happens.

Drew McLellan:

One of the things I talk about a lot is we never… Clients never object to the $10,000 price on the bill. They object to the $50 FedEx charge or some little thing. And I think oftentimes we forget how surprises and lack of communication feel on the receiving end of that.

Chantell Glenville:

Absolutely. And it is small things. It’s small things as like a $50 FedEx charge. It is things like that, that if they’re not put up front, and if the client isn’t aware, then it causes problems for them their side. It’s like a $50 FedEx charge? Well, if the client only has 10K, and they’ve already budgeted that, and that’s spent, where are they getting the $50 from? It creates an additional hurdle they’ve got to get over. They’ve got to get a new PO from their finance department. It’s like an hour-

Drew McLellan:

It’s a process all of a sudden that they have to go into. Absolutely right.

Chantell Glenville:

But for something so small that could have been avoided if there was better forward planning in the first place.

Drew McLellan:

Well, again, I think a lot of this, and I think what your book emphasizes is the idea that we have to really be able to understand, we have to walk in the shoes of our clients to understand what their world is like. What are some things about the client’s world that you think may not be top of mind, or may not be really clear to agency folks? What don’t we know about their world?

Chantell Glenville:

There are two things that spring to mind first in relation to that. So one would be the fact that there are so many different stakeholders that clients have to manage. So many different stakeholders from different departments. I mean, if you look at a client’s linear structure, it’s quite similar to an agency where your account manager is reporting into a managing partner or someone like that who’s reporting into the CEO. You have a similar structure client side. However, there’s then about another five or six, usually, managing partner equivalents that your day to day client is also going to have to get sign off from, because there’s going to be the product team, there’s going to be all the different departments that have their own input who technically shouldn’t really control how the marketing communications are formatted and things.

However, because they do have approval rights, they will, to some extent, control that. They will feed in changes. They will affect things greatly in their feedback. And they will usually feed back more than they should even as well. That’s just how a lot of companies are structured, so clients have to go along with it. So one thing I’d say about how are they’re very different is the fact that there are so many different people and rungs of approvals that clients have to go through, that one thing changing can derail a project hugely because then they’ve got to start that process all over again. They’ve got to go through all those different departments again. It’s a more complicated structure in general. Whereas agencies, because they’re usually quite streamlined and flexible, even the bigger agencies, you create smaller teams within that, so you can move things around quicker. Clients aren’t usually set up for that.

Drew McLellan:

So let me stop you there for a second and then we’ll get to your second one. So this is a really frustrating point for agencies is that agencies build into their budget, as you know, a certain amount of revision time and all of that. And it seems like clients can never honor that. That there’s always one more revision or 12 more revisions. So agencies are struggling. They get that there are a lot of people in the mix. But from the agency’s perspective, how can they help a client move through the approval process or get things to keep on course and on budget and on track time wise? Because it’s not just the money. It’s also the timeline of, “We want our website to go live, but there have been so many changes, we can’t do it.” How can agencies be better about that with clients, recognizing that there are all kinds of layers of approval process, some that are really clear in the org chart and some that are probably hidden under politics or dotted lines.

Chantell Glenville:

I mean, that’s a huge problem that so many agencies face. It’s a really good point. And you’re right. A lot of the approvals are hidden in the org chart, and that’s a really key point about it. They’re hidden in the org chart. So the first step I would suggest to any agency to getting around that issue is whoever will be your lead in terms of doing stuff, when you’re getting campaigns out agency side, get them to shadow your client for a week or two weeks, whatever it is. Get them to go into your client’s company and get them to shadow and it down with their client and really talk through literally everything that is involved for them on getting a campaign out. Because until you properly understand that and live that, you won’t be able to help your client manage that process.

Once you know it, you can go, “Okay, all right. So I can see how maybe you could group these approvals into this, or if we supply you the work, then you can do that set of approvals then, which means we’ll get feedback from that group,” and you can work out how many rounds there are going to be. Because there are just some client structures where two rounds of amends isn’t going to be possible. But if you know that upfront, you can manage that in one, the cost estimates you build, you can manage that there is more rounds of amends than two. You can manage that in the timings upfront. But you’ve got to be aware of it at the start, and I think that understanding, it just can’t come from an org chart. So frequently we rely on these org charts and they don’t tell the true story. Really getting actually inside the client’s organization, getting to know it as well as you know the process in your agency is the essential key to getting around that situation.

Drew McLellan:

I can hear the agency owners now going, “Well yeah, that’s great. I’m going to have an account service person in there for a week. I want to get paid for that.” And my argument against that would be, this is part of your new business development investment. Because not only will you understand the politics, but now your account service person, and by the way, this should not be somebody super junior. This needs to be somebody who can have business conversations. But they also now have relationships with five or six or eight people inside the organization, as opposed to your one client contact. And that’s always a precarious position for agencies, when they only know and have access to one or two people inside the company. If that person moves on or gets let go, now all of a sudden you’re dangling on the end of a very thin thread.

Chantell Glenville:

Yeah, absolutely. You’ve got to get to know more than one person in the company. And actually even just getting to know them face to face makes a huge difference as well. I’ve worked with agencies before where I’ve worked with team members who I’ve never even met, and it’s so hard to have a good working relationship with someone when you don’t even know what their face looks like, as strange as that you sound. But it’s not as tangible and you need to build that relationship personally. And it may be an… It is an upfront investment in time putting someone in there for a week. But for one, they can still work on other work on their laptop whilst they’re there. They can still do bits, take an hour out or whatever, as they need to manage other clients.

But also it’s an investment to make sure you are going to have to spend less time in the future because you’ll be able to better service the client in a more efficient way because of that understanding, because that initial investment in time up front, and you’ll have better relationships to better manage any hurdles that come up and things. It’ll pay off hugely as time goes on in the relationship. But it’s just making sure the foundation are strong at the start by building that understanding.

Drew McLellan:

And I often think that the more tentacles you have inside the organization, the more opportunities there are for work. So it’s not just the marketing department that may need your help. It might be the HR department or the sales department or the R&D department. So there’s also opportunity to grow the business while you are hanging out there.

Chantell Glenville:

Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’ve worked on accounts where we’ve picked up other new products that they’re developing by getting to know the client really well and hanging out at their offices and things. You can pick up other accounts, even, you can pick up other bits of the business just by being there, being involved, offering additional solutions over and above just what your bits are, your remit is on it, actually just being a partner to them. And you need to be there to be a partner to them and get to understand them. And yeah, it’s a great new business strategy at the same time.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, so that was one of the two things that you think agencies don’t really understand about clients. And then I siderailed us for a minute. So come back now and tell us, what was the other thing that you had in mind that agencies really don’t seem to understand about the client side of the world?

Chantell Glenville:

So another one is… It’s a lot more basic than that. Because I think that first one is really… It’s really fundamental because if you do that first one right, it would unlock so many other things as well because it’s core to just understanding what it’s like in your client’s company, which links into everything, essentially. And another one would just be also… But it does come up a lot. Clients tend to work different hours to agencies. And I think as agencies, we forget that a lot of the time. Because at agencies we unfortunately work all hours, and a lot of the time we work till pretty late each day, and it’s just kind of normal agency side that you’ll be in the office till like 6:37, and actually when I work agency side, if I left at 6:30, I was skipping down the street with joy. I’d left positively early if I got out the door at that time. It was like getting an extra weekend.

But that’s not the case for clients. So I think agencies fall down quite a lot by… They send work through to clients 6:30, 7 o’clock in the evening, and then they get annoyed when they don’t get a response till the next morning. And I’ve heard judgment in agency’s voices before, talking to a client being like, “But we sent it at 6:30. Why weren’t you there?” But it’s not how clients’ world works. Clients tend to get in early, actually, usually. A lot of the time you’ll find clients in the office from 7:00 AM. But bang on 5:30, they’re out the door and they’re on their way home. There’s a time shift. And [inaudible 00:17:17] case in all clients, it’s not the case in all agencies, but you need to find out what are your clients’ working hours, should be one of the first questions you ask. What are their typical working hours?

And then work to them as much as you can, but if you’re doing stuff outside of them, as long as you’re aware that those are aren’t their normal working hours, you can call them or text them and say, “Hey, would it be okay if you look at this,” or, “This is going to come through outside of those hours.” But otherwise you’re kind of… You’re working at odds with each other. You’re not working on the same page as each other. So you’re frequently going to have these miscommunications where agencies think you’re going the client’s going to be reviewing stuff, and they’re not going to be reviewing anything because they’re at home with their kids by that point. Again, it comes back to communicating and understanding what’s going on with each other and actually properly spending the time and effort to think through all of that and get all the answers to those questions so you can better work with them in a partnership.

Drew McLellan:

That’s a really great point. The other thing that I encourage agency account service to understand is what is the cadence of your client’s meeting schedule? So for example, if your client has to report in on marketing activities every Thursday at two o’clock, then you want to make sure that you have your weekly update document to them that tells them where everything’s at and what’s on time and what’s on budget by the end of the day Wednesday, so that they can have time to review it and then make any changes on the progress of those jobs prior to them having to step up in front of their boss and say, here’s where we’re at with things.

Chantell Glenville:

And that’s it. I mean, I worked with an agency when I was client side who were excellent at that. They knew we had a meeting same time every week, so they prepped for that every single week,.they made sure we had everything ready for that meeting every single week. Because they knew that that was our slot. That was when we were presenting to the rest of the business, and it made our lives as clients so much easier and also stopped any embarrassment. And that’s a key thing. When agencies leave a client without the work in time or without updates or without knowing what’s going on, when they’re then talking to their bosses, it leaves them exposed to being embarrassed by not being on top of their job.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Chantell Glenville:

So the agency who does that, who works around what the client’s meeting schedules are, what their timings are and everything, they’re the ones who come out on top, because they’re the ones who actually… They’ve formed a partnership. They’ve gone, “Hey, okay, this is how you guys work. So we’ll work like that with you as well. We want to do the same as you.”

Drew McLellan:

And that leads right into something else you talk about in your book, the whole idea of agencies who stumble because they over promise and under deliver. So talk a little bit about that phenomena. Because that’s a pet peeve of mine. I’m stunned at agencies who think deadlines are optional, or that when you tell a you’re going to have something to them by end of day Thursday, they get it Friday morning or whatever it may be. So talk a little bit about that and your solutions for that.

Chantell Glenville:

I mean, it happens a lot. I mean, as I mentioned earlier, work gets delayed. These things happen. And I mean any account manager worth their salt should always add in extra time to timing plans, it goes without saying. But these things do still happen at the end of the day. And as agencies, it can be so tempting, one, to try and when you’re given tight timings in the first place to go, “Yeah, all right, we can do it, we can do it,” and crunch every bit of buffer time out of that timing plan because your client really wants it by a certain date. Or when your clients call up at the last minute and go, “Oh, I need it a day earlier,” to just to turn around and say, yes, you can do it, because especially I think people in account management in general, we tend to like to pull the magic out the bag and save the day and be a hero and show we can turn around anything in any time.

But when you over promise and under deliver, you’re just sending yourself up for a fall. Because as a baseline, just as a hygiene factor, clients expect agencies to deliver work on time. That’s not a, “You’ve done a good job, well done,” if you deliver it on time. That’s the baseline. So anything later than that and you’ve messed up, essentially. So when you go around over promising, you’re never going to come out winning from that situation. Either you manage to come out and you’ve delivered on time, so great, you’ve lived up to the baseline expectation, but you haven’t done anything wonderful, or you’re late on it, and then you’ve messed up and you start this bad relationship where the client’s then starting to get annoyed with you.

So there’s no benefit to it and it can be really hard. But if your clients are putting you under extreme time pressure, it is more than reasonable to turn around and have an honest conversation with them. Talk to them about what is feasible, what isn’t and even discuss the things where you can say, “Look, we’ll try everything we possibly can to deliver it by X, but we cannot promise it.” And show them the different parts of timing. Show them the options. Because if you don’t do that, if you just try to say yes, be the yes man, you risk actually doing more harm to the relationship than good when you don’t manage to deliver on that yes that you gave them in the first place.

Drew McLellan:

I think where it gets really complicated is when it’s the client who has delayed the timeline. But again, to your point, I’m a firm believer in rather than giving due dates, it’s X number of days from this point to that point, so that if a client takes five days to do a review process that was allotted for two, you saying to them, “Okay, look, this has pushed us back three days. We will try and make up some of that time.” It’s like the pilot who takes off late. “We’re going to try and make up some time in the air, but we get there when we get there, so understand that this delay may push back the actual delivery date.”

Chantell Glenville:

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s a great way to do it. Giving “it’s five days between this point and this point.” So whenever you approve it, it’s still going to be five days in between, and we will do everything we can to get better on that. But giving actual, “these are the time slots for how long those bits of the process take up front” is really helpful.

Drew McLellan:

I also think that a AEs tend to… And you alluded to this earlier in our conversation, tend to avoid difficult conversations. And I think one of the skill sets that agency owners need to interview for is the ability and willingness to go into uncomfortable conversations with an understanding it from the client’s perspective, but also being willing to say, “Look, we’re not going to be able to do this,” or, “the budget called for five rounds of revision and you’ve taken eight, so that’s going to require a change order,” or whatever it is. When you have those conversations early on and often, A, you train the client to get used to having those conversations, but B, you’re helping them understand how to be a better client.

Chantell Glenville:

Oh yeah, absolutely. If account management are doing their job well and are properly factoring how things are for the client and always having those conversations front, it should get to the stage where if the client calls up for more rounds of amends than they actually have allowed for in the budget, et cetera, or they’re doing something which will delay the timings, that they should be going in that phone call to the agency, “Okay, I need to change this again. How much extra will it be, because I know we’re out of scope now.” It should be that much awareness of it that they know what their scope is and what their scope isn’t. So it’s not a difficult conversation. There’s nothing surprising. It’s just, “Okay, well we’ve had our scope, this isn’t part of it, so we talk about it now.” But that only comes over time and over account management doing it time and time again. So it’s not a, “Oh, they’re trying to rip us off now.” That’s just how the finances work. That’s just how this situation is.

Drew McLellan:

So earlier you talked about an agency that was was really on top of things and really helped you stay informed. What makes a great agency partner? From a client’s perspective, what makes an agency an agency you couldn’t imagine ever firing?

Chantell Glenville:

So I fundamentally think there are two things to creating great client agency relationships. One is stopping doing the stuff that annoys clients, and the second is doing the stuff that takes it from good to great. I think a lot of agencies assume that they’re at the baseline of everything’s okay, but actually agencies frequently do stuff that takes them to minus numbers in that, by doing the stuff that annoys clients. And then even if you do stuff which makes the relationship great, if you’ve still got that negative going on pulling away from it, you’re not going to have a consistently good relationship. So I think as a agency you need to do both parts of that. You need to stop the behaviors that make the clients’ life harder, essentially. And then work on the things which are the things that make the client’s life easier, that’s essentially ta