Trust: It’s All About Never Breaking “The Vow”
Reproduced from Getty Image, 2013
Trust takes place in all aspects of life. Trust is the thread that connection people’s relationship, personally and professionally. In communication industry, trust is considered one of the most successful factors for agencies to build a strong long-term relationship with their clients (Bahn and Kohli, 1997). According to Mayer, Davis and Schoorman (1995), trust between organizations can be defined when a trustor is willing to rely on a trustee in term of accomplishing expectations. In the case of client service in an agency, the trustor is the client and the trustee is the agency.
Reproduced from LinkedIn, 2013
To explore more about the issue of trust in client management and also bring more real-life knowledge into this article, I arranged an interview with Mr. Daniel Gordon Jones – The Managing Director of DDB Group Vietnam. Mr. Daniel has been in the communication industry for 14 years and 10 years of those are in Asia. He has held many important positions in working with complex integrated client service in big agencies such as Account Director, then Client Service Director and then General Manager for Bates in Vietnam and now the Managing Director of DDB Group Vietnam. Based on past experience, Mr. Daniel gave a lot of insightful knowledge about trust in client relationship management in the interview.
LEVELS OF TRUST
Mr. Daniel clarifies that there are many levels of trust and each level needs different method and effort to build and stabilize. In Daniel’s point of view, there are two ways to deal with clients: in projects that take several or in contract that lasts more than 1 year. In the project-base relationship with client, since the agency is chosen based on their pitch competing with other agencies, they pay more attention to the quality of their work rather than building trust with the client. Mr. Daniel said: “Every project is a new thing so you don’t actually have a long-term vision with the client and it’s kind of difficult to gain trust. A lot of clients are like that in Vietnam”. In this case, trust is in a low level and the client has trust enough in the agency to run the campaign according to plan. Meanwhile, in contract-base relationship, trust is in a higher level and it requires close relationship because the result has more values than just a campaign and the agency also wishes to maintain a long-term relationship with the client. Mr. Daniel gave an interesting analogy that is the project-base relationship between client and agency is like a date while the contract-base relationship is like a marriage. The rest of the article is about the “marriage” since it requires a lot of insight.
According to Davies and Prince (2005), there are two forms of trust in client-agency relationship: Pre-experiential Trust when the client has no working experience with the agency and Experience-based Trust when the client has been working with the agency for a certain amount of time.
Reproduced from Getty Images, 2013
Mr. Daniel claims that it is fortunate for his agency when in Vietnam, clients have more favor in foreign and big agencies like DDB so trust is easily formed from the start. Mr. Daniel said: “We foreigners seem to have more trust-worthiness than local agencies. And when the client pays more money for a big agency, they expect a higher level of trust in term of everything including delivery, timeliness and support.” This can be easily understood since in order for clients and agencies to work well together, the existence of common values is very crucial (Michell, 1988) and it helps to strengthen trust and; therefore, results in high-quality creative work (Michell, 1984) and large and mature agencies that are rich in staff and experience in variety of kinds of product with global accounts like DDB would have many different values and are more likely to be chosen by the client (White, 2000). Mr. Daniel also said that the next step is that they would make a contract and the moment they sign the contract is like they walk each other into the aisle and make vows about things they would do and things they would not do. The foundation of building of trust is that the agency never breaks the vow. They keep their promise, avoid mistakes and especially are faithful. Mr. Daniel gave an example that when he is working with Heineken, his agency is expected not to work with other beer companies because it is like cheating your wife with another woman. He said this stage requires a lot of time to settle things down.
Reproduced from Getty Images, 2013
In this period where both the client and the agency have reached the mutual values based on working norms, Mr. Daniel said the basic thing is still that the agency have to keep the vow and never break it. He believes this may seem easy but in order to avoid mistakes to the minimum in a long time takes a lot of effort and dedication from the agency. Moreover, he said the agency have to be proactive in everything in order to maintain trust with the client. “We have to be 3 years ahead of the market and maybe 4 years in term of product development,” Mr. Daniel said. Besides, being proactive in risk assessment is another factor to build trust provided by Mr. Daniel. “The client comes to you because they believe you can do things right so you should be prepared for any risk in the future to gain their confidence,” he claimed. The final things Mr. Daniel mentioned is that the agency should be sensitive with the client’s ego. Conflicts can happen in every stage of the contract and the agency has to be sensitive enough to convince the client as well as maintain trust in their relationship. Clients seek for agencies that are willing to alter the process to suit their company’s culture (Diaz, 1985). Mr. Daniel recommended the agency should use research and facts to convince the client when they have disagreement in order not to damage the trust.
In conclusion, after the interview with Mr. Daniel, I have learnt a lot about building trust in client-agency relationship, which I thought that it won’t take much effort until the interview. “Trust is hard to build but easy to break” so it is important that the agency is careful when dealing with their clients to get the desirable outcomes. I hope this article can be useful with whoever reads it and help them be prepared to deal with the real clients and find it easier to climb higher on the relationship-ladder with their clients.
Word count: 1096
Proof of Life, photo by the author
Interviewed by Huynh Thuy Vy (S3312277) on 20th April, 2013.
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Getty Images 2013, “Businessman catching businesswoman”, image, Getty Images 2013, viewed on May 12, 2013 <http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/businessman-catching-businesswoman-high-res-stock-photography/88586523>
Getty Images 2013, “Senior and Young Hands Promise”, image, Getty Images 2013, viewed on May 12, 2013 <http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/senior-and-young-hands-promise-royalty-free-image/165827478>
Getty Images 2013, “trust highligted in dictionary”, image, Getty Images 2013, viewed on May 12, 2013 <http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/trust-highligted-in-dictionary-royalty-free-image/157481384>
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