A good client manager sees “black” and “white”, a great one sees “grey”
– Author: Nguyen Xuan Hong Ha (s3357764)
A client manager’s qualities have been well debated over time, yet, there’s no definite chart for a qualified person working in this service sector. Even though the relationship management process varies based on what type of client you receive, there’s some specific standard you need to meet in order to perform best in managing your company’s customers. I had a chance to interview Mr. Trinh Quang Long, a senior account executive from TBWA group about this topic and the only word to sum it up is “balance”. Balancing between your agency and client is no more the trend; it’s “balancing yourself”!
Balancing your good self: Be an angel
“Being an account executive is like being a submissive daughter-in-law”, said Mr. Long. For a long history, B2B communication – in this case, agency versus client – has been emphasizing on meeting customer-initiated requests under every circumstance. (Flint, Woodruff & Sarah 2002) In order to do this, an account person has to be very attentive to what clients want and eager to find ways to resolve the requests. Furthermore, it’s believed that a client’s want must be satisfied before moving to a client’s need (Solomon 2008). Hence, if you want to jump into anything else, you must pay attention to what the clients ask for in the first place and solve them beforehand.
On the other hand, putting serious effort in understanding your client is also a crucial step in approaching a positive relationship. “It all starts with trust and commitment”, Mr. Long showed his strong belief in how sincere account executives are needed in dealing with clients. He also asserted that we must treat clients with respect as a manner basic by thinking of them as normal human beings like us. People have feelings and everyone desires to be treated nicely and appropriately. Clients are in the same situation, need to trust and be trusted as best interest in an account executive’s heart. (Poulsen n.d)
Balancing your tough self: Ready to be the bad guy
In some situations, it’s not always the case when a kind, tolerant and “cute” client manager wins all the contracts. Believe it or not, the main role of account manager is not satisfying clients, but act as a “frontline intelligent” for the client, who has the knowledge and capability that can provide the answers to questions even it’s not pleasant (Davis & Pharro 2003).
Mr. Long thinks that “Someone who can burst clients’ unrealistic bubbles and show them what should be done will make it far in this position”. He explained not only because showing honesty is necessary to progress future cooperation, but also because clients are in need of objectivity, not fluffy overused compliments for their products. (Lace 1998) Thus, remember to keep an analytical mind and fight back if you think that it won’t do your client any good. Be bad with good intentions.
Balancing yourself: The blurred line
On top of all, any client-agency relationship must be based on the mutual cooperation and the relationship must be “partnership”, not owner-slave. (Gundlach, Achrol & Mentzer 1995; Beverland, Farrelly & Woodhatch 2007) So, how nice and how tough you should be? There’s no specific answer to that, still. But keeping in mind that an account executive’s value is a reflection of their agency to their clients, it’s very important to show professionalism and sincerity. Let the clients know that you and the agency are qualified for the job, yet, 100% committed in developing the relationship.
Learn to mix all the “black” and “white” to get your best “grey”!
Word count: 591
Beverland, M., Farrelly, F. & Woodhatch, Z. 2007, “Exploring the Dimensions of Proactivity within Advertising Agency-Client Relationships”, Journal of Advertising, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 49-60.
Davis, T., Pharro, R. 2003, The Relationship Manager: The Next Generation of Project Management, Gower Pub Co, New York.
Flint, D.J., Woodruff, R.B. & Sarah, F.G. 2002, “Exploring the phenomenon of customers’ desired value change in a business-to-business context”, Journal of Marketing, vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 102-117.
Gundlach, G.T., Achrol, R.S. & Mentzer, J.T. 1995, “The structure of commitment in exchange”, Journal of Marketing, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 78.
Lace, J.M. 1998, “Evaluating advertising agency performance: Actions to enhance the client/agency relationship”, Management Research News, vol. 21, no. 7, pp. 47-59.
Long, Trinh Quang 2013, interview, 24th December 2013.
Poulsen, L. n.d, “5 traits of a good account manager”, Business Bee, viewed 08 January 2014, <http://www.businessbee.com/resources/sales/account-management/5-traits-of-a-good-account-manager/>.
Solomon, R 2008, The Art of Client Service, 1st edn., Kaplan, New York.