In the age of Prince2, Basecamp, Slack, Trello and so on, the client facing role in agencies is increasingly merging with that of Project Manager. Clients are emailed, not called. Work is briefed, reviewed and presented back with minimal (actual) face time.
Now this might be very handy if you’re in Leeds and your biggest client is in Singapore, or if your back-end dev is done in Russia. But what about client relationships? Delivering work on time and to brief isn’t enough to win awards or make a difference to a brand’s bottom line. For really effective creative output, you need great work and a great client relationship (no point producing outstanding creative if the client won’t sign it off) and neither of those has a lot to do with being brilliant at Basecamp.
Having worked in the industry for over 18 years, it seems to me that in the rush to make sure everyone is using Trello properly and understands what Google’s latest algorithm update means we’re loosing the skills that lie at the core of good account handling and have a dramatic impact on the agency-client relationship.
Essentially, a good account handling team can shift their relationship with the client from Supplier to Professional Advisor and along with it comes reduced price sensitivity and increased retention and upsell. But that means account handlers need the skills, experience and time to build the face to face client relationship and to learn enough about their client’s business to offer professional, considered advice.
Any senior account handler who doesn’t know what their main client’s KPIs are and how they compare to last year’s has no business calling themselves Client Services. Likewise, any account handler who doesn’t put time and effort into both crafting great Creative Briefs and understanding how previous campaigns have performed should be rethinking their career options.
Creative marketing communications is not a commodity. As an industry, we need to make sure that the people who work most closely with our clients and sell our work in are on the same page when it comes to getting the work right and delivering best advice. In other words, there’s still a lot to be said for old school account handling, even if that means finding room in the budget for a few long lunches.