In the dog-eat-dog agency world of winning pitches and landing new clients, new business is often regarded as an important measure of success. But as those in the industry will already know, it is keeping those same clients and finding ways to grow with them that is the real determiner of sustainable agency success.
So, what exactly does it take to ensure happy, long-term clients or at least keep them coming back and sending more work your way?
For Demographica’s Client Success Director, Ongopotse (OG) Motlhanke, it really comes down to, as the wording in his title suggests, instilling a ‘client success’ mentality within the business.
“Rather than rehashing different ways to revitalise the traditional, yet largely prevalent client service offering within the agency environment, we view client success as a philosophy within our business. For us, it’s essentially the philosophy of ensuring our clients achieve their desired goals, while using our services.
“Here, it differs to the traditional client service approach in that while client service delivers a set product, client success goes further and in addition to a product, also delivers the all-important amazing experience all clients expect, together with clear wins for the client,” OG says.
To further explain the notion of ‘client success’, he refers to its use in the software as a service world. “When a client buys or installs a software service, they will typically be assigned a client success manager to help them use the software service effectively and efficiently.
“And, while at the outset the client may for instance only be using a small part of the functionality of software, the ‘client success’ person will then dig deeper and ask bigger questions around what, as a business, they’re trying to achieve through the software implementation.
“It is the client success manager that will guide the client and make suggestions around how they could potentially be making better use of their software to enhance efficiency and maximise results. In much the same way, our client success team will coach, teach, and navigate the needs of our clients in order to assist them in achieving their desired marketing outcomes. It’s important to take the time to understand the bigger business picture to ensure we’re always delivering the results the client wants and needs,” he explains.
But OG is also quick to clarify that within Demographica ‘client success’ does not necessarily mean ‘client first’. “Many people incorrectly assume that client success equates to bending over backwards to meet each and every need of every client, no matter what. That’s not the case at all. Simply put, client success means we all win. In other words, me as a business, and you as a business, find a way to ensure we collectively win,” he says.
And in terms of the impact implementing this philosophy has had on Demographica to date, OG believes the greatly improved relations with clients and increased revenue, together with a higher net promoter score speak for themselves.
“Not only has implementing this approach to servicing clients increased client retention with many clients renewing contracts and/or increasing their scope of work with us, but as an agency, our net promoter score is something we measure regularly and, as a tool, take extremely seriously.
“And based on our increasing score, I am confident that this can be attributed to an ongoing improvement in the clients’ experience of us, which in turn translates to a better result or collective win for all parties involved.”
But implementing any philosophy or mindset change in an organisation does not happen overnight, and OG believes that reaping early success from this approach comes down to three fundamental steps.
- Coaching and training of key resources internally
- Setting up and structuring the business to enable a ‘client success’ mentality
- Creating a support system, as well as gaining ongoing commitment from Exco in maintaining this philosophy within the business
“Following intense training and coaching of the team leaders, followed by the team members, and then the rest of the business, we made the then, somewhat daunting move of completely restructuring the business. We now operate on a predefined pod structure with each client success pod structured according to role requirements, skill sets, and individual strengths. Each of our clients are assigned to a particular pod team,” OG says.
And while clients know who their go to people are, with clear ownership of the client across different levels of the business, OG stresses that client success within Demographica is not just a department where client responsibility only lies with one or two individuals.
“It’s important for us that our clients know that they have access throughout the value chain – from CEO all the way down to our office administrators. We, as Exco, are committed to showing up for the client. We are always visible and present for all our clients irrespective of size,” he adds.
However, despite encouraging strides in building great client relationships, OG emphasises the importance of not becoming complacent. “We, as a business, are continually looking at how we can improve our processes and do things better. We are particularly excited about the improved utilisation of technology in providing an amazing, next-level experience for our clients, which we are in the process of moving towards.”
And, in addition to continuous process improvement and finding better ways of working to ensure outstanding client experiences, a key learning from OG’s ‘client success’ journey that will always remain is that of being honest and over communicating with clients.
“Over communicating removes any potential anxiety of where clients are with their jobs, campaigns, or projects. You need to be able to open up your agency world to them so that they understand your processes better. Remember, we need you to win. If you understand how we work, you get to use us better. And as such, we all collectively win,” he concludes.