working towards great client service

Archive for the category “Guest Lecture Recap”

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

Agency-Client WOW Relationship

Read on for highlights of guest lecturer Danreb Cartagena Mejia’s talk on ‘The Importance of PR Planning from agency and client perspective.’

Meet Dan. One time journalist from Manila, turned PR practitioner in two of the most respected agencies in Vietnam, and now working on the other side of the pond as the Marketing Director of ACFC Vietnam, the top fashion retailer in the country with brands such as GAP, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Tommy Hilfiger and Nike. 

Last July 10, 2012 Dan visited the halls of RMIT University Vietnam to share with the current crop of client management students universal secrets in the practice of public relations in Vietnam from both sides of the client-agency relationship dichotomy. “I enjoy both,” he quipped when asked which role he preferred.


“I enjoy both.” Dan on working in the agency or client side.

When it comes to one’s career, Dan recommends working in an agency first before becoming a client. “Agency gives you the implementation experience. You will know the network, and as a client you know what is happening, you understand what is going to be more realistic, what the real budget is.” 

Because he used to work for the agency side, he knows the tricks of the trade, and uses it to make better negotiations.

Because of his agency skills, Dan seems to take on the role of an all powerful, ideal client. Perceived by most as having the upper hand in this relationship as agencies take the usual role of seeking approval with every PR strategy and tactic they come-up with. How then can a WOW relationship be achieved with this unequal footing?

Dan, talks about the importance of the Way Of Working. 

“You need to know what each side wants. What each side perceives as important, what is valuable to them.” At the end of the day, keeping in mind that both sides want the same thing can result in the WOW factor.


Source: Dan Mejia guest lecture slides, July 10, 2012
presented at RMIT University Vietnam.

That’s easy then, because both agency and client want the same output in PR… quantity and quality. Whether its using push or pull to educate the public about your brand or campaign, getting a return on investment (ROI) is what matters.


The trends in PR for 2012- “its all about adaptability.”

Dan’s recent business trip to London gave him insights on the top 5 emerging trends in PR for 2012 (and beyond). This he suggests can be one of the ways both agency and client can work towards their common goal of achieving PR quantity and quality in these tough economic times. 

“The new public relations is about understanding relationships between people, what people want and need from these relationships, and how they form, sustain, and use communities of interest.”

But when it comes down to it, Dan posits that “An agency is only as good as its client.”

Yet there is something that can be added to this point of view, and I would like to make this suggestion, that… Agencies should help make their clients better. 

What are some of the ways agencies can educate clients? Hidden among the bullets in Dan’s presentation slides is one of the current challenges in public relations in Vietnam… “it is the agency’s task to educate client and raise the bar of PR Ethics even if the client emphasizes its own policies.”

Now that, in any perspective is a great result and will definitely create a WOW! in achieving a great agency-client working relationship in the public relations industry in Vietnam and beyond.

As future client managers, in what other aspects can we help make clients ‘better’? What are some of the issues a client need to know more about? How can we have a WOW relationship with our clients? Share your thoughts, by  replying to this post.

~Mel C

To connect with Dan and know more about the exciting PR possibilities in Vietnam’s growing fashion landscape please send a message via:


Quality vs. Price Triumvirate Model

Monica Morelos, former General Manager of River Orchid Vietnam talks to us about the realities and benefits of evolving “From Transaction to Relationship: Converting short-term customers into long-term clients” in Vietnam and offers her own interpretations of an industry practice on the issue of quality/value vs. price.

"You are the face of the agency"

In a more low-key and personal affair last 20th of March, the client management class met with Monica Morelos, a client service expert with over 13 years of experience in applying marketing communications as business-building solutions across several industries in Asia.  Her visit marked the 2nd industry seminar for the course this semester.

From how to choose clients carefully to how to make it easy for clients to work with you her advice kept the room silent and attentive with just the frantic (or was it manic?) scribbling sounds of pen to paper and finger taps to iPad’s as students hung on to her every word.

"Make them remember you over others"

Vietnam in particular she notes is quite known for clients who shop around for new agencies every time a creative requirement is needed. Partly owing to strict company policies of asking for three quotations/ cost bidding per project, most transactions end after just one project, a one-off instead of a long-term retainer relationship as clients seek out the most cost effective option for them.

The first practical tip in getting retainer accounts according to Monica is to seek those who would potentially have an ongoing need for your services and the budget to support it. And even if at the onset these clients do start out as short-term, good client managers should have the mindset to aim for long-term. Part of this mindset, is passion for the work; making a good impression; and constantly learning about your client’s business and how to help them develop it.

There are many academic journals, business articles and books that we can use to help educate ourselves on how to become professional client managers and maintaining long-term relationships with clients. But have we ever considered that maybe one way to maintain retainers is to educate the clients?

This suggestion was met with both surprise and curiosity by the students. And in what could be deemed as the most memorable part of the guest lecture was Monica’s presentation, of what I suggest should be termed as… The Quality vs. Price Triumvirate Model. A very practical guide every client manager should consider in educating clients and curbing expectations in a time and budget challenged environment such as that existing in Vietnam.

The Quality vs. Price Triumvirate

This model, was a result of her musings with her husband (who is also involved in advertising client servicing), experience with countless negotiations and re-negotiations with clients, and from reading tips in advertising magazines. Humbly, she shares that she claims no copyright over it and is just happy to share her own interpretation of how it works.

Simply put, clients should be made aware that they cannot have it all! Expecting agency to deliver a creative quality idea + in a quick time frame + costs cheap… is not possible. Something has got to give. Realistically, client managers need to make their clients choose two from the triumvirate. Monica funnily shares that she has had to print-out this model and show it to her clients whenever they start to make unworkable demands on her creative team.

By the end of the session, students were abuzz with questions including the sensitive topic of kick-backs and commissions as a device to maintain relationships which unfortunately is too juicy to share on record and online. This means, dear students you need to come to the next seminars to fully enjoy the tales from this exciting world of client management in Vietnam.

~Mel C

Your #1 goal should be to educate Clients on what is the point of differentiation you have to offer

ABOUT: Monica Morelos was instrumental in securing the Imperial Tobacco account on retainer (from 2006 to present) for River Orchid Vietnam.  She was also influential in winning the Green Cross Hand Sanitizer business, and being a key player in shaping the business strategies of the brand (from 2008 to 2010). Hired primarily to head River Orchid’s Client Service team she became General Manager in May 2010 and played a central role in the streamlining of processes across departments (Client Service, Creative, Activation, Public Relations, and Finance) and the overall growth of the agency. Currently she is on sabbatical and does freelance training for client servicing and maybe contacted directly through:

“A bird in the hand…”

To kick-off the Client Management course seminars for semester 1, 2012, we were joined last March 16, by three guest lecturers from Dentsu Media Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam to speak about their industry experience in looking for, winning and maintaining clients.

Nguyen Quoc Hung, Media Director
Photo by Thong Vo Minh

Nguyen Quoc Hung (Media Director), Melissa Caranto (Communication Designing Director) and Nguyen Viet Ngan (Media Account Director), our roster of veterans in the field of advertising, media planning and activation shared their combined 20 years experience to answer the proverbial client management question: “Which is more important, client acquisition or retention?”

The seminar began with Hung giving a brief background first on the Dentsu Group, and then Dentsu Media its sister company which was established in Vietnam in January 2012 “we are a baby in the industry” he offered. But a baby with high-profile clients which include the Vietnam Football Federation, FIFA World Cup and Apple Macintosh.

But as Melissa continued with the talk, she revealed that it was not an easy road to gaining a foothold in the media industry in Vietnam despite their affiliation with the Dentsu Group as they faced a lot of competition from bigger and well established companies like Group M, Optimedia and VAC. Melissa admits “although client acquisition is exciting it is not a cheap way to run a business…” And so, to support their start-up they initially tapped into their strength by focusing on Japanese companies with a Vietnam base such as Honda, Sharp, Panasonic, Toshiba, Toyota, Fuji Xerox and Sapporo to name a few.

“A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush” was the integral proverb she shared that set the tone for the rest of the morning.

Melissa Caranto, Communication Designing Director
Photo by Thong Vo Minh

Admittedly, the proverb of sticking to something you already have does not always work, therefore Dentsu Media never stops looking for new clients. They take into consideration specific client profiles to customize their services, while keeping in check their commitments to existing clients (read: no conflicts of interest!).  They also maintain their vigilance to research and are pro-active in finding new ways to attract new businesses. As a newcomer they needed to go above and beyond the usual service menu, instead offering something more than the usual fare.

Dentsu’s sports marketing niche (including planning methods, analysis tools, digital business expertise, and sports and entertainment content resources) therefore became the key to their current success in Vietnam. Taking advantage of Dentsu’s global network, with over 100 offices across the world they were able to create exciting and ground breaking content for the FIFA World Cup in 2010. An example was the TV show My FIFA World Cup featuring non-celebrity/ ordinary Vietnamese teenagers going around the world partaking of the World Cup festivities; instead of simply broadcasting the event, they added value-laden original content for TV and online media. As such they were able to build-up their reputation and acquire new clients from this ground breaking action.

By using the 360 degree media contact point they continue to strive to put more in the market. As Melissa brought the point home, “we are believers in real value which are, ideas that work… to transform people’s behaviors, to move people.” And this is what keeps clients happy for a long time.

Nguyen Viet Ngan, Media Account Director
Photo by Thong Vo Minh

Ngan then shared her role in media planning, an all important behind-the-scenes job to make sure the ad campaigns are seen by the right target audience. She stressed again the importance of research, finding the right client design and how to effectively deliver the client’s message. She also shared the client servicing WHO (global vs. local clients), WHAT (services, cost, innovation) and HOW guidelines. Ngan shared an interesting insight on the HOW… “Buy our idea before selling to clients” which translates to knowing your proposal fully, presenting it with passion and believing in your own creative ideas first before convincing others to believe in it.

After the business side of client acquisition and retention tips, Hung gave a very practical and quite entertaining talk on how to keep clients happy the Saigon Mad Men way. Yes! There is a lot of socializing involved he admitted including beer, golf, birthday cakes and singing karaoke… However to become a true partner in the agency-client relationship ladder, you as a client manager need to actually “enjoy it!” with the client. Otherwise your mask is seen and it will not be an honest relationship.

Of the many suggestions Hung shared the two that stood out was: 1.) Talking about business in the last 5 minutes of the meeting; and 2.) Connecting clients to new people. Networking beyond your business objectives and actually making an effort to introduce your client to other people who either shared their interest (new golf buddies) or people who can help them achieve other business needs that you are not able to provide (meeting new investors, or even a birthday cake supplier!).

Hung on keeping clients happy
Photo by Thong Vo Minh

In what seemed to be the shortest hour in the semester, the client management students obviously could not get enough of our guest lecturers from Dentsu Media asking lots of questions that almost ran us overtime! To conclude, our guests offered this final advice that seemed contrary to our academic text on Developing an account-management life cycle for advertising agency-client relationships (Waller 2004)… That a relationship never truly ends.

For more information on Dentsu Media visit their website at:

~Mel C

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