working towards great client service

You’re hired! Now what?

Often times, when we look at client-agency relationships we plainly see it as a two-sided coin. How one should perform unparalleled client service, and the other, how to courteously receive it. For the past weeks the class has participated and engaged in lectures, class activities and student reports that reinforce this symbiotic co-existence taken from either the agency or client perspectives.

Until last week, when Mr. Gary Woollacott, Chief Executive Officer of Opus Executive Search provided a valuable standpoint to support the theoretical ideas posited about organizational culture. The equation multiplied exponentially as a new player in the client-agency relationship entered the scene- a third party “the fly on the wall”.

“There is method in my madness”
Gary on how he builds his network.

The seminar topics were also useful for workplace orientation and internship courses as Gary talked about conducting research about a potential business contacts/ employers; to doing your own work; to avoiding discrimination in the office and how to have a respectable ‘after-hours’ persona. All great starting points for young people aiming to get a head start in industry.

So, how do agency creatives and clients strive to work towards a trusted partnership status in global markets? Below are some key ideas taken from from a human resources (HR) perspective.

Fitting into a new job

As future employees in various communication industries (or working as a client side if you choose it) Gary notes that “every company has its own style, just ask the questions, try to get a feel on what the company is like.” He confirms the basic academic concepts of navigating around different organizational cultures, he adds, “some are formal others casual. Some bosses even want you to update them with your progress all the time.”

And in some cases, cultural nuances may not be a good fit inside the workplace. In Thailand for example he has experienced Kreng Chai (เกรงใจ) the concept of respect  for elders. “Its the feeling of obligation to someone, it may be good at home but not always at work.”

The main thing is that you ask questions and be observant of how things are run in your office and see if it fits your personality and work ethics. Only when you feel comfortable in your job will you be able to do good work.

Work/life balance

Say, you find the perfect organizational culture and you can’t wait to get to work each day… That’s well and good. The question is, is there such as thing as too much work? Gary says yes.

“When you finish work, finish work… when you go on holiday don’t check your email! The office won’t shut down without you. These days we are so connected we fall in the trap of responding to emails or check phone messages.”

Adding to Gary’s point of view, I would like to point out that looking ahead, most of you will be enmeshed in high energy, tightly timed tasks in the creative industry. Most might even have to work after hours to prepare for pitch presentations or work weekends in events activation. This comes with the job, yes. But knowing when to stop is the key.

Talk with your boss and ask for a holiday to compensate for a series of overtimes. Negotiate your terms sensibly and find that middle ground to keep you sane.

“It’s cliche, but its important.”

Being gracious

Speaking of negotiations, a key insight to the seminar dealt with being gracious in business. Gary reckons that “In Asia, its more of… I win, you lose situation.” However he confirms the need for ‘Integrative Bargaining’ or looking for that ‘Win-Win’ outcome.

“It’s a cliche, but its important. When I was in corporate finance in London I would be negotiating deals in behalf of companies, but not all companies negotiate that way, there are lots of unrealistic vendors out there. The lesson I learned in corporate finance, is when we negotiated really hard, we won… but fast forward to six months… lawyers that I worked with before may say watch out for him!

“Especially in a small town, word gets around if you are a hard negotiator people will say Yes she’s the one who demanded $5,000 but delivered nothing!”

Speaking of small towns…

Don’t burn bridges

Academia confirms to us that relationships do end. What we do when it does is entirely up to us, “this applies to any human relationship” notes Gary. Ideally avoid ending relationships on a bad note especially if you are one of only a handful who has that specialized skill set in a small city like Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

For example “If this company is not for me, talk about it with your boss, maybe they can move you in another department, if the boss is the problem talk about it have a sensible adult conversation.” He further recommends “Don’t push too hard.”

Remember the adage that goes: Be nice to people on your way up because you’ll never know who you’ll meet on your way down.

~Mel C

To more about Gary and his work with Opus please feel free to contact him at:
Gary Woollacott
M:  +84 90 808 2799
M:  +66 81 810 0119

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6 thoughts on “You’re hired! Now what?

  1. Hohuuhuy on said:

    Although Gary’s information and tips are helpful, I think they’re easier said than done, especially when you’re a new starter in the industry and especially in Vietnam.

    For example, like Mel said, when we’re fresh graduates, just out of school, it’s not easy to leave your work at work. Working late and on weekends are common, even for seniors. Especially in the PR industry, practitioners are always expected to be available for the press, for any crisis that can come up at any time.

    I also agreed with Giao about the working environment in Vietnam. The creative industry is new in this country and not all professional frameworks are applicable to Vietnam at the moment. Negotiations therefore will be much harder.

    All in all, I think we’ll have alter some points in Gary’s talks so that it works for starters like us and in a country where the industry is very new like Vietnam.

  2. Some fiery comments in this discussion! I guess the very emotional nature of creative people make this end of relationship situation more volatile than in other industry, say pharmaceuticals. That’s why we need to assess and improve our EQ!

  3. I just see some consideration that we always set in mind that “Don’t burn bridges” but sometime it’s hard to prevent. Because when you are in the economical down turn, all we need to care is the profit of the company. So it’s hard to do not take a chance to increase sale in order just to maintain a relationship. For example, when you left your old agency to move to another. Your clients put all their trust on you and want to move to that new agency with the purpose of still working with you in their project. They are a big client and it definitely brings many beneficial to your new agency and your boss want you to take that chance. So, in this situation, how can we refuse to not work with them? We know that it is hard to have that big opportunity again in the tough situation of the market. That’s my considered question after his speech. 😦

  4. I agree with Giao about the unprofessional working style of most of Vietnamese clients and Vietnamese representatives of foreign companies in Vietnam. My friend complained to me about how they suddenly changed all of the visual materials of the event just 2 days before the event\’s date. And that was from the communication manager of an multinational company. I really think we need to make it clear about our working principles in a gracious manner to every clients we may work with.

    Clients are not God, yet, we are new to the game, so well, I will try to be patient with them in my first year and \”train\” them gradually when I have more power n experience >:).

  5. Ninhpham on said:

    in some cases, the company is the one who burns all bridges with employees and it is not unreasonable. One of my acquaintance said once his old company known he was going for a competitor company, they literally cut all ties and made him stop working.

  6. giaovo on said:

    To me, clients here in Vietnam are unpredictable and likely to change their minds more than the English weather. Since then, agencies tend to get confused and esp. it’s hard to please the clients with what they want due to lack of agreements and collaboration from both sides.

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