By Firas Mghames, Managing Director at FEER McQUEEN & CEO FLAG M GROUP
If you look into a company’s structure, you’re bound to find some sort of Customer Service unit whose sole job is to cater to the customer and be the middleman between the company, and the client or consumer. Even in the Ad world, Client Servicing departments are part of the old, tried and true Ad Agency adage… but things have been taking a turn. The reasoning behind having a whole department dedicated to Client Servicing is no longer sound. Why would you dedicate manpower and budget to a task that should be a given when it comes to the type of work creatives do – creating for the client? Today, the entire agency, every single creative, should be “servicing” the client and honing communication and organization skills to maintain every client relationship.
Soft Skills – A Creative’s True Bread & Butter
Traditionally, the Client Servicing department is the frontline and the buffer between the client and the creatives. This is due to a common misconception that “creatives”, those who do the creative and technical work, are not fit to be in direct communication with clients. Granted, the stereotypical gawky and stammering artist does come to mind when you think of a fresh grad trying to explain the concept behind their branding to a client, but it is not actually the case across the board. In today’s world, these skills, what some call “soft skills”, are everyday essentials, be it for work-life or social life. Soft skills can range from communication, time management, and organization, to leadership, teamwork, and adaptability. In 2021, the set of skills needed to accommodate clients and build relationships with them should be available and practiced by every person in the agency, not just a Client Servicing team.
Building & Sustaining A Client’s Brand
Looking further into things, the work creatives do is fundamentally targeted toward building and sustaining the client’s brand. So, it is not odd for them to build connections with the brand itself. With these connections comes a sense of responsibility and ownership. The whole agency, from copywriter to photographer, should be client-oriented, or better yet brand-oriented, because in the end, they are the ones who build the brand – they should share this responsibility and claim the brand as their own, along with the client. On another note, since the creative knows the brand best, putting them in direct contact with clients leaves no sense of things getting “lost in translation”. No more middle person having to convey messages back and forth between client and creative. By removing the added layer of middlemen, creatives are given room to go beyond the brief and provide an exceptional experience for clients.
Pick Your Battles
Now, the reasoning behind the lack of communication between client and creative is no longer relevant. The creatives and production team might have always been reflecting the notion that they don’t have the skills to communicate firsthand with the client, but this is far from true. What needs to be done here is to support the team to be able to hone their “soft skills” – practice makes perfect. Also, the old misconception that the client is the “bad guy” that the creatives need to be protected from is outdated and no longer relevant. Creatives should be given direct access to the client in order to build connections and understand the client’s vision. Finally, the classic fear of losing a creative to freelance work or direct onboarding by the client is also misplaced – pick your battles and aim for the bottom line. In the long run, retaining the client outweighs the risk of losing the creative to the client.
Building A Long-Lasting Success Story
When it comes down to it, we find it makes much more sense for the creative, someone with hands-on experience, to learn Client Servicing techniques, rather than having Client Servicing team members dive headfirst into the creative realm to learn it all and relay it all to the client accurately. Additionally, creatives would benefit immensely, and their work might be just that much more on point when they are given direct access to the client’s thoughts and words, without the filter of a Client Servicing officer in the middle. All in all, it’s important to remember, creatives don’t have to close the deal – all they have to do is be around and maintain a relationship with the client for a long-lasting success story.