An Inside Look at Client Service at CCA
In DBA’s 2022 “What Clients Think” report, which is based on 600 client interviews conducted on behalf of agencies, you’ll find this stat:
Our response to that?
At CCA, we are very big on client service. In every industry, there’s always someone who had a great agency experience and a bad one—and usually, as DBA’s report concurs, the bad experiences come down to client service issues.
And when it comes to higher ed, we know that most colleges and universities operate with a lean internal team, making it extra important that their agency feels like a natural extension. A partner you can count on. A friend you can grab dinner with at conferences. A group you can turn to for new ideas, solutions, and, let’s face it, a good vent sesh every now and again.
So in the spirit of providing some coverage on our client services team, here are five guidelines we live and breathe by.
1. Set expectations.
Every step of the way, clear and well-communicated expectations are essential for success. First step to this involves listening and downloading as much as possible (ideally, this information is then placed into some kind of brief/doc that can always be referenced).
We really want you, our partner, to feel heard. You’ll notice that we often rephrase and repeat back to make sure we interpreted correctly, and we’ll send a summary/report to ensure it’s accurate.
Then, we’ll lay it all on the table, being transparent about what is realistic.
And if things change—feedback comes in late, designer suddenly has kidney stones (yes this happened)—we know the best thing we can do for you is be completely upfront. We won’t try to hide it. We’ll be honest, because honesty builds trust, even when that means delivering bad news.
- Stay in a place where productivity is possible
- Strategy/brief is always homebase
- Remember, we share the same goals
2. We’re all on the same team.
When things get a little sticky, for any reason, we always go back to the beginning and remind each other of the initial goals.
That’s why we treat our creative briefs like the Bible. It’s a living, breathing document that both our team and our client have access to and reflect back on often. In every one of CCA’s reporting calls, we list out the campaign’s goals/objectives, timing, audiences, budget, and tactics. This serves as a good reminder of where we started and what the goal is.
At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team. It is not a client vs. vendor relationship, ever! We’re on the same side of the table.
- First step: listen
- Document project goals
- When plans change, be upfront
3. Don’t lose on the small stuff.
When it’s really busy and a client has an urgent need, it’s tempting to move too quickly, which leads to mistakes slipping through. So we simply don’t let it happen. We never assume that what we’re getting from a printer or a media partner or even a colleague is in its final form.
The first thing, for example, any of us does before sending out any project estimate or proposal is send it to both our project manager and our VP of Client Services for proofing/double-checking before it goes to the client.
We’re saying this because those small things—a typo or grammatical error—can have the biggest impact. So wherever possible, we put a system in place that lets our team win on these small victories. They end up paying off in the biggest way.
And, some advice for internal teams or other agencies out there: If you do lose on something small, address it, own it, and move on.
- Never assume anything is perfect
- The smallest things can have the biggest impact
- If you lose on it, own it
4. Stay organized with project management.
How you organize yourself is up to you. A few of us have everything digitized, some of us are Team Pen & Paper.
But when it comes to departments and cross-collaboration, there is no reason to not utilize technology to keep us all on the same page.
How robust you do this is up to the agency, but at CCA, our preferred project management tool is Workamajig. It’s extremely helpful in ensuring that deadlines are tracked, feedback is is gathered, and documents (and all their versions) are all in one place.
Our project management team also helps us delegate tasks or assign to-do’s as needed. Plus, then our larger group can see what has been assigned, to who, and the project status.
- Utilize PM software to increase collaboration & communication
- Keep documents organized and in one place
- Delegate/assign tasks to keep projects moving
5. Be human.
This guideline is probably the most obvious and needs the least explaining, but is just as critical as the others.
We’re business partners, yes, but we genuinely care about the people we work with. You have something going on that’s affecting your work? Feel free to tell us. Your kid just scored the winning goal last night? We want to know! Some of the best times we have with our clients are when we grab dinner on the conference circuit or during campus visits, and we catch up like friends. The work is more fun that way, you know?
- We’re here for you
- We all have lives outside of work
- We’re always down for dinner (and it’s on us)
Sound like we’d be a good fit?