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Everything is not what it seems

 George MacDonald, a Scottish author proposed that “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved”, implying that gaining trust is very difficult to do. It is even more difficult in the relationship between agency and client. How to deal with this problem in the real workplace? There is no exact answer.

‘Don’t make a relationship worse’

My interviewee, Mr. Tran Trong Bang who is working at Marketing Department in HSBC bank, Customer relationship Management shared some interesting facts and story about the industry which can help everyone acknowledge more useful tips and real experience in the workplace about trust and some ‘ugly truths’ behind the scene.

As an international company, HSBC has to face with more challenges than other local bank when learning local insights. Thus, a strong relationship between HSBC and its clients as well as partners is not an easy objective to achieve.

Mr. Bang claims that coming to Vietnam, HSBC has to add some new values for the company to be suitable with Vietnamese market. With the tagline ‘The world’s local bank’, HSBC has been constantly changing and striving to enhance its reputation and brand image. The company background, development and values in Vietnam can be viewed at: http://www.hsbcvncareer.com/en/jobseekers/news/cate/35A4ED90

Reproduced from Payne, Christopher & Perk 1995

When asked about trusted partners, the highest position in ‘The relationship Marketing Ladder’ (Payne, Christopher & Perk 1995), he asserted that it is tough, even when you have already got trusted partners, it does not mean you can maintain that relationship forever. In the case of HSBC, it plays two roles: the client and the agency. Mr. Bang disclosed some advices for both.

When wearing the agency hat, gaining trust in customers is very important as HSBC is a renowned bank in a very competitive sector. Depending on the nature of your client; you will have different ways to treat them. For instance, HSBC provides Financial Institutions, Securities Services, Corporate Finance Services or Personal Financial Services; depending on each client, HSBC will have different manners of service, strategies or tactics to satisfy them. Overall, Mr. Bang recommended that no matter who is the client, HBSC has to always be professional and prestigious,  respect every client in even the smallest ways: the way we dress, our tone of voice or facial expressions, understand the customers’ needs, keep the promises, prepare well before meeting them and be flexible in any situation.

When wearing the client hat, HSBC often hires advertising or PR agencies to do campaigns to attract more customers, enhance their reputation and build up their relationship with current customers. HSBC also has to be professional and prestigious. In addition, it needs to know clearly what the objectives are to ask the agency to follow, empower the agency and trust them.

If you can follow the above inputs, you are a step closer to being a trusted partner.

 

What lies beyond the trusted partner stage?

Now, I will tell a story shared by Mr. Bang that HSBC has to face for many years as a client…

HSBC has been known as a global trusted partner of a certain agency. They share long-term relationships, successful campaigns and the agency receives an annual retainer fee. This means both HSBC and the agency have to know exactly what to do, understand each other and have full control over their plans and budgets (IPA et al 2012); everything seems completely ideal for HSBC and its trusted agency. However, not everyone can understand the complications behind this model relationship.

Having worked together for many years, HSBC and the agency have faced many issues. They did have successful campaigns and have strong impacts among publics. Everything seems to be perfect, however…

Each year, HSBC pays a large amount of money for this agency to execute projects. Nevertheless, the agency seems do not really deserve this compensation as they do not work effectively. Late submissions, unsuitable concepts, unrealistic expectations or unsuccessful product photo shoots are common mistakes from the agency that HSBC had to deal with for a long time. This hugely affected the working process of the bank and made HSBC waste money, time and lessen productivity.

 Mr. Bang shared that a few weeks ago; this agency went over budget as their product photography failed. The pictures taken were not good as expectation while the staff was not enthusiastic and worked unprofessionally. HSBC had to cut down the media fee to support the agency to complete the campaign. These troubles are not uncommon.

Tackling the trouble – Easy or difficult?

In the case of HSBC and its long-term agency, there is no way to change agencies as working with this agency is considered organizational culture; they are trusted partner ‘globally’. Thus, Mr. Bang shared that HSBC always has to be flexible and prepare back-up plans in case the agency cannot do well so that they can still run the plan. More specifically, the agency that HSBC works with is very good at coming up with creative concept; HSBC can buy their concepts and seek local company to execute as they can work faster and even better. Additionally, HSBC staff also has to remind agency staff of the tasks or deadline regularly to make sure that they can complete the works on time.

Interestingly, Mr. Bang said that although they have different working styles and sometimes have conflict in working together, they are still good friends after work. ‘Can you believe that we often hang out together, have fun, gossip or even get drunk’, Mr. Bang laughed and shared with me. He told that this is very good to maintain the relationship, ‘work is work, friends are friends, don’t make a relationship worse’.

Theory versus Reality – Does trusted partners exist?

Obviously, it is very hard for theories to become true because it requires trust when agency and client want to work together fruitfully. However, in the real workplace, tons of things could go wrong.

You see… It is one thing to have a trusted partner. It is a totally different thing to maintain the relationship.

WORD COUNT: 1024

About my interviewee:

Image

Mr. Tran Trong Bang – He is working in HSBC Bank at Marketing Department. His major is Customer Relationship Management, Data Analytics and Premier Banking. As a RMIT alumni with wide network and over 4 years’ experience on working with global as well as local companies, Bang can gain many interesting experience and knowledge about the relationship between agency and client.

He loves traveling, eating and playing sport. In this year, his goal is travel oversea about 5 countries.

 

References:

Payne, Christopher & Perk 1995, Client Management: study guide, Professional Communication Program,RMIT International University Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City.

IPA et al 2012, ‘Agency remuneration: A best practice guide on how to pay

agencies’, 2nd edn, ISBA, viewed 27 July 2012, <http://www.isba.org.uk/docs/best-practice/agency-remuneration-2012.pdf>

Tran, T.B 2012, interview, 20 August

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2 thoughts on “Everything is not what it seems

  1. Interesting selection of interview subject… someone that is both a service provider and a client. Good inquiry on what goes under their ‘hats’. I was hooked on your sub-head ‘what lies beyond the trusted partner stage’… so is the answer… none? Client has to trust its own team instead. Or is it as you mention in the conclusion- if the trusted partnership does not work, settle with just being good friends outside the B2C relationship? ~Mel C

    • Yes Mel, the answer is in the conclusion, I mean there is no exact answer as everything can go wrong in the reality. You may have trusted partner but you cannot make sure that the relationship will last forever. If your trusted partner does not cooperate effectively anymore, you have to be flexible, think of solutions to fix it but still not break the friendship 😀

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