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Archive for the category “Trust”

Perception of client retention from client’s perspectives

Interviewed by Truong Thien Kim Long – s3324490 – Group 1 SGS

Readers know how agency does good to keep clients. It may be objective or subjective based on a writer’s perspectives. Have the readers ever thought of the opposite view? Join this post and imagine, what client thinks of the agency in one case study, presented in an interview.

(Colgate, n.d)

(Wpp, 2007)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An interviewee is Ms Nguyet Minh, Colgate’s Brand Manager. She specializes in FMCG industry and has 9-year working experiences; Ms Minh shows her professionalism and worldly-wise statement through her commitment to Colgate.

(Minh’s facebook, 2012)

“Colgate’s people concentrate on core values: Care – Global Unity – Nonstop Improvement. Minh said, three values are a basis of business strategy since they reflect Colgate’s lifework. Due to these values, its people have grown with Colgate and this is also the reason why Minh has become expert in being Colgate’s brand manager.

Minh gave the case study of Y&R and presented her perspectives about client retention. “Y&R works for Colgate-Palmolive in 4 years; however, there was a campaign, Y&R failed to satisfy us seriously”, said Minh. The campaign presented new Colgate toothpaste in Vietnam market that had the same functions but better quality than a competitor P/S. It was anti tooth decay and gave consumers pure breath, firmer and whiter teeth. Y&R helped Colgate run the campaign and attract customers (Minh 2014).

The problem is mutual communication. Y&R did not understand a brief but no asking at all. No pro-activeness in getting client updated with the campaign that made Colgate feel no more as the client who is buying a service. Y&R dissatisfied Colgate by offering few options and unreasonable rationale for the campaign.  These facts resulted in Y&R’s unprofessionalism, damage to Colgate’s trust and bad reputation (Minh 2014). Y&R also had no understanding of client’s market and insights.

Development of Trust

“Y&R is our long-term partner but the failed campaign destroyed our trust”, said Minh. Sobel (2010) stated Trust is a critical key in client relationships. Client trusts in agency’s capability by doing creative work and everything said must be supported with accurate facts and figures. Product’s image satisfies client’s needs so as to make them trust the agency (Casul 2012).  Solomon (Chapter 3, 2008) asserted the agency must live the client’s brand by being open and seeking new information and insights. You only live your client’s brand when you have research on their brand and product’s insights. You see the brand as yourself that helps you understand it clearly. The way you love yourself is the way you love the brand!

To give and keep Promises  

“Colgate pays for Y&R but we feel we depend on them for helps” (Minh 2014). Lack of pro-activeness and no understanding of the brief caused this fact. Solomon (Chapter 6, 2008) stated the agency must take the brief seriously. It was Y&R’s failure in understanding the brief. A good brief is important to obtain great creative work; if you cannot make yourself an expert on client’s product, you fail to keep promises with them (Solomon, Chapter 9 2008). Deliver what you promise and do not promise what you cannot deliver (Casul 2012). Y&R’s bad performances resulted in no keeping promises with Colgate. No understanding the brief matters since you do not ask anything so we cannot support you; “it is a bad attitude towards your promise”, Minh’s viewpoint.

Quality-Price-Time Triumvirate Model

(Blackboard, 2012)

(Blackboard, 2012)

“Colgate pays a service but Y&R does not assure the quality” said Minh. Casul (2012) asserted the agency should educate clients on quality and price; however, Colgate did this task instead. Minh added, Colgate has to pay additional fees because we want to speed the process up. It is costly to get the quality fast; without additional fees, everything seems slow. “Although we pay fees, it still seems like we do not pay anything for the service” said Minh. This point argues with Casul’s view, you can neither get the work cheap nor fast and it is either not a good quality. Moreover, “you can get good work cheap but it takes a long time” (Casul 2012); Y&R case study pointed a serious problem not to get the work cheap, good and it was a long time, too.

Hence, differences are in comparing communication theories and practices. The problem arose from the agency’s bad performances. Thanks to Minh’s advice, I present recommendations in client retention. Y&R is excellent; however, its local agency fails to satisfy clients and face bad reputation. Solomon thought the agency must get the client involved in the process early (Chapter 18, 2008); the process will be better. The client feels happy because they do not work alone. Additionally, client’s observation helps the agency check the work’s quality. “Y&R should have been proactive in contacting with Colgate during the process”; “quality does matter and we want Y&R assure it for us” (Minh 2014). “Don’t hesitate to ask, this is a way keeping us updated”, shared Minh; “We are willing to answer the questions”. Asking questions makes sure you understand us and go on right track. Without interpreting the brief, it is impossible to start. It is a must to understand the client’s insights and market. Nevertheless, Y&R had little research on Colgate and got briefing wrong. You should live your client’s brand (Solomon 2008), feel it, love it as love yourself then you know to do the best work for your client.

Proof of life: Ms Minh and the author (taken by another person)

Proof of life: Ms Minh and the author (taken by another person)

References

Casul, M, 2012, “Lecture 2: The relationship marketing ladder”, Blackboard materials, pp. 4-6, viewed 5th May 2014.

Minh, P, 2014, Interview for Client Management assessment, 3rd May, 2014.

Sobel, A, 2010, “How strong is your client relationship?”, Blackboard materials, pp. 2-3, viewed 5th May 2014.

Solomon, R, 2008, The art of client service, KAPLAN, NY.

 

“WHO NEEDS RELATIONSHIPS? I DON’T NEED RELATIONSHIPS” – says no businessman EVER.

Interviewed by Le Dao Tuong Vy – s3309943, Group 1, RMIT SGS Campus.

 

“Business is about relationship and relationship allows great work to flourish” (Solomon 2008). What about relationship? How can you build it? How can you keep it? These questions are possibly among the oldest questions in any business. Without a doubt, relationship is one of the most important factors to a business. Building a relationship is hard and it is even harder to keep it. Before my holiday on April 30th, I had a very interesting conversation with Mr. Vo Hung Dung about relationships in business. Mr. Dung is the Director of Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vietnam, also known as VCCI.

dialoose_1291590629_VCCI Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vietnam

(Reproduced from VCCI 2014)

In 1963, Vietnam’s government established VCCI. It has been the bridge connecting foreign business with Vietnam’s market ever since Vietnam’s government decided to allow foreign business to enter. This is the most important communication channel from overseas to Vietnam and vice versa.

According to Mr. Dung, after joining VCCI, he has been managing three main services: import and export Certification, short-term classes and event-planning service. These services contribute to the relationships between Vietnam and foreign business. VCCI gets involve with the communication field by developing its event-planning service. The event-planning department differentiates itself from other agencies by organizing solely big-scale conferences, seminars and shows for VIPs. The guests invited to these events are expertise in their fields from many big companies in other countries.

Mr. Dung shared a story about how VCCI got its first client in event service. As mentioned earlier, VCCI has provided another service, which is education. The courses provide businessman from other countries knowledge about Vietnam’s market so they can invest and adapt more easily. Vietnam’s companies through these courses can also have better understanding about foreign market. By providing the education service, VCCI attracts more Corporations and firms seeking for business opportunity in Vietnam. Since VCCI and Mr. Dung himself have become such experts in this category, the Corporations that took part at first decided to entrust Mr. Dung again with event-planning service. These foreign Corporations then became his first clients. In other word, the relationships that VCCI has with their clients go way back in the past. With his network, Mr. Dung invited many experts from Vietnam and overseas to talk at the conferences and seminars. Moreover, not only that Mr. Dung helps strengthen this bridge, he also makes it easier for Vietnam business to strive into the international zone. This service under management of Mr. Dung has contributed greatly to the profit of the organization and also to Vietnam’s economy.

10298879_1438205646427393_9029733810713793945_n

VCCI International Bridge

(Illustrated by author)

Mr. Dung kept repeating relationship is not a one-day and one night thing, people have to put effort into it. Relationship needs to be nurtured. Once you win a client from your competitor, be aware that it is still not the end for your competitor. Mr. Dung emphasized about the quality of service, the most important thing that will maintain the relationships in the long run. There is millions of organization competing with each other everyday and the only thing keeping them survive is the quality (Martin 2009). Since the day Mr. Dung joined VCCI, he has never seen any loss of clients. He shared the key to these success relationships was mutual understanding. To him, good communication leads to quality service and quality service maintain the relationships. 10264848_1438200563094568_1194264900265996164_n

Keys to Successful Relationships in Business

(Illustrated by author)

Apparently, Solomon (2008) also agrees with Mr. Dung’s point of view about how important it is to build and maintain good relationships in doing business. In addition, Martin (2009) and Mr. Dung both have identical opinions on the crucial impact of quality service to relationship between the company and the clients. You can win the client with good pitch, but the quality of the service will keep them. That is exactly what Mr. Dung believes in and work hard for it.

10155264_1438207976427160_1274879603488619897_n

 Interview with Mr. Vo Hung Dung – Director of VCCI

(Taken by author’s friend)

 

Word Count: 626 (Not include Title and Captions)

Reference

Martin, W. 2009, Quality Customer Service: Satisfy Customers – It’s Everybody’s Job, 5th edn, Axzo Press, US, viewed 28th April 2014.

Solomon, R. 2008, The art of client service: 58 things every advertising and marketing professional should know, Kaplan publishing, viewed 28th April 2014.

VCCI 2014, image, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vietnam,vcci-hcm, viewed 27th April 2014, <http://vcci-hcm.org.vn&gt;

 

 

Trust Building – the Fight between an Old Fox and a Lime-pot.

By: Le Thao Vi – s3410135

“An old fox is not easily snared. Experience is the mother of wisdom. The longer you work at a place, the higher respect and position you will receive” (Manser, 2007).

 Image

Reproduced from Flix99, 2009.

Living in a culture valuing age and seniority like Vietnam, many old Vietnamese workers usually underestimate and disparage younger bosses due to their lack of life and work experience.

On the contrary, from the younger point of view, age does not always come with wisdom. Old workers seem to be incompetent to technology, afraid of changes and insufficiently flexible compare to younger employees (Munnel et al., 2006). This was closely reflected in a Vietnamese poem by Le Dat in 1956:

“Those who live a hundred years,

Just like a slaked lime pot.

The longer it lives the worse it is,

The longer it stays, the smaller it is”.

 Image

Reproduced from Baotangnhanhoc 2013

As a young manager in the future, it is inevitable for you to lead a team of old workers who are 40, 50, or even 60. However, the differences in opinions, attitude and experience between different groups might easily lead to disagreement, conflicts and consequently to distrust both in and outside organization (Galford & Drapeau, 2003). So, how could a young leader eliminate the arbitrariness of the old foxes and challenge the preconception about the lime-pot to attain agreement and harmony between two different generations within an organization? The answers will be found in this interview with Ms Nguyen Thi Huong Ly, the director of Vi Dai Phuong timber import and export company, which Ly officially inherited from her parents 2 years ago.

The encounter between two different ideas: the old fox and the lime-pot 

Reaching such a high position at the age of only 28, the biggest challenge for Ly was to remove the obsolete perspective of the old fox and win trust from both employees and clients. Back in time to her first months in the role of the company’s head leader, Ly faced many difficulties in getting her decisions supported by the company’s old managers who are at her parents’ age. These people tried to put difficulties in Ly’s way by disregarding or rejecting her opinions and ideas. By contrast, these experienced employees in Ly’s eyes was not as good as they thought. In her opinion, age made them slow, out-of-date and consequently less effective in work.

“They once viewed me with great suspicion. And I saw this as a sign of envy since most of them are older than me but have to work under my supervision. However, it was obvious that they have lower education than me, so they have to accept to be the inferior”, said Ly.

These long-lasting conflicts resulted in two letters of resignation from two 25-year-experience employees and contract cancels from several long-term customers.

“Conservatism is a big obstacle in the march forward” 

samen

Reproduced from Hypervision, 2013

However, Ly’s opinion could not stay in her mind long when she saw a sharp decline in the company’s productivity resulted from the strained work relationship among administrators. Her father called Ly and they had a long conversation at that day. Although the old managers’ opposition towards her was not new to him, he was quite astonished at her conception of the lime-pot.

“Since the day my father gave Vi Dai Phuong to me, he has expected me to walk on my own foot. Therefore, he did not discuss with me much about what I should do or should not. He simply said: “Conservatism is a big obstacle in the march forward”, and wanted me to think about it”.

“This helped me to realize that it was my resistance to change that caused conflicts within the company and put it into this difficult situation”, told Ly.

This early failure brought about an evolution of her attitude about the old workers, as well as of her leadership career path.

“Trust starts with truth and ends with truth” 

The old managers could not change the truth that Ly is the owner of Vi Dai Phuong, and similarly, Ly could not deny the truth that their age and experience easily make them trusted by other employees and clients. Therefore, she chose to rebuild trust in the company with truths.

Inspired by the quote: ‘Trust starts with truth and ends with truth’. I wanted trust in my company to become truth which is real and unable to be changed”, shared Ly.

Ly firmly believed that the only way to change the ingrained perception of the old fox in the old workers’ mind is to abolish her attitude of the lime-pot. ‘Stealing’ their heart by opening her heart.

“If you want to make fast progress, you have to swallow your pride and eliminate your prejudge first. It is completely wrong when you walk into the office and yell out ‘fire’: “I am the boss here and everything needs my approval”. You are only respected by respecting others, based on direct and straightforward communication ” said Ly.

Free talk is not only about job, but it also demonstrates people’s attitude and characteristics. It will help a young manager to grasp the employees’ needs, understand their ability, and give them a chance to know more about him/her.

 

5 keys for young bosses to manage older staff

Usually, young managers are pretty ambitious and impatient to acquire achievement, but inexperienced and unaware of their specific circumstances. Thus, the following tips are provided to help you successfully break through age discrimination and rebuild trust in your organization: 

–       Break off the parent-child relationship:

A child cannot request his parents to complete task on time, or to judge and criticize them. Therefore, by accepting this kind of relationship, you cannot ask your old employees to work seriously and effectively. Do not treat them as your parents or the ‘big kids’, but as your colleagues.

–       Abandon misleading perception of the previous generation

Not all the old workers are the same, and you need to spend time on understanding them to use them effectively. Usually talk with them, care about their outdated hobbies and assist them with technology, instead of criticizing their shortcomings in their ability.

–       Learn to respect others

As a manager, you should adjust to the generational differences in social and cultural awareness and contribution to work, as well as to appreciate their opinions and working habits.

–       Take off the hat ‘boss’

A knowledgeable leader will not be afraid of recognizing his/her colleagues’ capability. Old workers always have some valuable experience. Treasuring it, instead of wasting it. Questions and compliments can indicate your appreciation, which the workers always expect to obtain in the last period of their career.

–       Willing to listen to others’ ideas and even advice.

Do not afraid to learn from others when they have something worth to be shared. Not only does this help you to show your respect to others, but it also a great chance for you to enhance your professional capacity.

Taken by the author

Proof of life (Taken by the author)

 Word count: 1160

Reference for content:

Galford, R. & Anne, S.D. 2003, The Enemies of Trust, Harvard Business Review, vol. 81, no. 2, pp. 88-95.

Manser, M.H. 2007, The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs, 1st edn, Infobase Publishing, America.

Munnel, A.H., Sass, S.A., & Soto, M. 2006, Employer Attitudes towards Older Workers: Survey Result, Center for Retirement Research, Boston Colledge, viewed 20 December 2013, < http://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2006/07/wob_3.pdf>

Reference for images:

Baotangnhanhoc 2013, “Triển lãm làm sống lại văn hóa Trầu cau”, image, Bao Tang Nhan Hoc, viewed 30 December 2013, <http://baotangnhanhoc.org/vi/tin-tuc-su-kien/su-kien-noi-bat/1315-trin-lam-lam-sng-li-vn-hoa-tru-cau-.html>

Flix66, 2009, ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox (Blu-ray)’, image, Flixx66, viewed 30 December 2013, <http://flix66.com/fantastic-mr-fox-blu-ray/>

Hypervision, 2013, homepage, Hypervison, viewed 30 December 2013, <http://hypervision.nl/>

Bibliography:

Minda, Z. 1992, Young Managers Face a Generation Gap, Management Review, vol. 81, no. 2,  pp. 10.

Starnes, B.J., Truhon, S.A. & McCarthy, V. 2010, A Primer on Organizational Trust, Human Development and Leadership Devision, pp. 1-15.

Westfield Wright Communication and Research, 2012, Attitudes to older workers, Westfield Wright Communication and Research, viewed 20 December 2013, < http://www.fsc.org.au/downloads/uploaded/2012_3001_older%20workers_report_4464.pdf>

Keep calm and ‘help’ clients to climb the loyalty ladder

Written by Nguyen Tra Giang – s3397586

In today’s modern and dynamic life, people tend to hastily chase their passions and desires, companies often focus on mass production and how to increase revenue quickly, whether patiently nurture and maintain a long-term relationship with clients is still important?

Figure 1 : A long term client/agency relationship is priceless , you can't buy or sell it, you just can use a strategic process to reach it. Source (Sallyhogshead 2013)

Figure 1 : A long term client/agency relationship is priceless , you can’t buy or sell it, you just can use a strategic process to reach it. Source (Sallyhogshead 2013)

“Forget about pushing products, you will never be able to sell your products to anyone if you do not have trust and support from loyal customers”, Bao asserts with a resolute tone of a young man who is an Account Executive in Planning & Sale Dept of Petrovietnam Southern Gas (PSG). After a year being responsible for client servicing and client acquisition, Bao concludes that building a successful client relationship is a whole challenging yet exciting journey, which requires you to cultivate knowledge to construct specific approaching strategies and develop a professional communication skill. Regarding to this topic, I and Bao would agree that Loyalty Ladder is an ideal marketing relationship concept for assessing the degree of client loyalty.

Figure 2 : The loyalty ladder is a relationship marketing concept that sees customers gradually moving up through relationship levels(Managing Service Quality 2000)

Figure 2 : The loyalty ladder is a relationship marketing concept that sees customers gradually moving up through relationship levels(Managing Service Quality 2000)

“The power of first impression”

The bottom rung of the loyalty ladder is an important part as it is the foundation to reach loyal clients. “There are always new clients in the crowded market who come to your business for the first time. Make the first visit remarkable and everything else (loyalty, advocacy, trust) will possibly come after” (Beverland, Farrely & Woodhatch 2007). For Bao, when client is in the first ladder – Prospect, patience is the key. He asserts that without appropriate qualifications of prospect, you will fall down at the first rung. “Don’t make your sale pitch early because you might be 80% immediately ignored. Be patient and save it until you both know clearly about others”, Bao warns. With my question of how to shorten the distance with client at the first rung, Bao suggests that creating personal relationship is a solution. He often takes advantages of networking events or existing relationships or even tries to invite clients to his friend cycle to get a better understanding about them. “Best time to professionally give clients a relevant pitch is when you research adequate information about their current situation and find out why your products is compulsory for them”, Bao advices.

Figure 3 : The best way to build loyalty down the road is to focus on loyalty and commitment on the first rung - Prospect . Try to carefully research about clients and impress them in the first meet conversation . Source (Chronos-studeos 2013).

Figure 3 : The best way to build loyalty down the road is to focus on loyalty and commitment on the first rung – Prospect . Try to carefully research about clients and impress them in the first meet conversation . Source (Chronos-studeos 2013).

Know and love your client’s business as much as they do

Now you already got clients to use your products in the stage Acquaintance and are on your way to move them to a higher rung – Steady Supporter. However, “you may lose your clients to the competitors anytime if you just leave them with the products and get lost”, Bao emphasizes. He encourages future client managers to pay more attention on client’s business so you can consistently exceed their expectations. For instance, PSG mainly distributes liquefied petroleum gas, besides selling products, Bao always actively give clients advices, suggest them promising projects and update gas/oil price as well as educate them about the market .Focusing on product and client services helps to retain existent and increase word-of-mouth (Davies & Prince 1999).

Figured 3: Clients are just like us. They want to be cared and supported. Love them and they will love you back. Source , (Steph , 2012)

Figured 3: Clients are just like us. They want to be cared and supported. Love them and they will love you back. Source , (Steph , 2012)

“Relationship is like a brand: you have to invest in it, and understand that it gets built over time” (Solomon 2008).

Figure 4. Invest effort, passion and knowledge to build a strong and long-term relationship. Source, (dreamstime.com)

Figure 4. Relationship is like a brand, you have to invest effort, passion and knowledge to build a strong and long-term relationship. Source, (dreamstime.com)

Relationship commitment will be driven to the top rungs – Advocate and Trusted Partner when agency constantly improve their proposed solution and willingly try new approaches. Bao proudly smiles while mentioning about Petrolimex and Shell Gas Vietnam, the two most loyal clients that he has put much effort to move them through each ladder. Before we end the conversation and get back to the hustle life, Bao reminds that client retention is more important than acquisition because 80% benefit come from the existing clients. By maintaining a stable relationship with them, you not only able to sell more products but also raise your reputation because your loyal clients will give positive reviews about you to others. “You’ll possibly get new clients and remember to keep calm and ‘help’ them to climb each loyalty ladder all over again. Good luck”, Bao winks.

Figure 5: (1) Nguyen Thai Bao ' s business card . (2) Nguyen Thai Bao and Nguyen Tra Giang is enjoying their talk about client management in Papa coffee. (3) Nguyen Thai Bao ' s business photo . Image collaged by author.

Figure 5: (1) Nguyen Thai Bao’s business card. (2) Nguyen Thai Bao and Nguyen Tra Giang are enjoying their talk about client management in Papa coffee. (3) Nguyen Thai Bao’s business photo. Image edited by author.

Word count: 664

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.

Davies, M. & Prince, M. 1999, “Examining the longevity of new agency accounts: A comparative study of U.S. and U.K. advertising experiences”, Journal of Advertising, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 75-89.

Solomon, R. 2008, “Great Work Wins Business; a Great Relationship Keeps It”,The Art of Client Service, Kaplan Publishing, New York, pp. 97-99

“Yes, I trusted my client. That’s why I married him”

The client-agency relationship is said to be like a marriage in which the couple fight, argue and bicker yet at the end, they stay because they trust each other. Now you can be skeptical: ”Psshhh, life isn’t a fairy tale”. Well, read on and discover how this true story can change your mind about the analogy above!

Figure 1: The client-agency relationship is often referred to as a ‘marriage’ (Reproduced from Parekh 2013)

Figure 1: The client-agency relationship is often referred to as a ‘marriage’ (Reproduced from Parekh 2013)

Sipping a cup of tea, Ms Thanh Tran – Senior Account Manager of Cheil Vietnam – looked as comfortable as ever while discussing the ‘trust’ topic with me. She’s happily married to Mr. Binh Le (the then-marketing executive of Dutch Lady) who was her client for 3 years. ‘It was all because of trust’ – Thanh starts the conversation.

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Figure 2: Ms Thanh Tran – Senior Account Manager of Cheil Vietnam. Her previous positions were Senior Account Executives at Y&R, Wunderman and JWT. (Photo given to the author by Thanh)

I ask whether she agrees with the textbook definition of trust, which is “the willingness to depend on and believe in each other” (Sam & Waller 2008). Thanh nods, adding that although this is indeed true, the matter lies on how trust is built between the client and the agency: via similar values.

Thanh says Dutch Lady is the client she enjoys working the most with. ‘Binh’s team at Dutch Lady was really supportive of my agency’s work. Both sides believed in each other as we shared the same work ethics and personal morals.’ The chemistry built upon similar values blossomed into respect and trust. ‘It’s like what the theories say (Davies & Prince 2005). But how can we know that both sides have the same values?’ – I interrupt. Thanh smiles and answers that just like in a new marriage; it takes time and effort from both sides to understand each other.

Thanh usually takes clients to lunches and got to know them personally to assure them that she’s sincere about building mutual trust. ‘Treat them like your beloved, show your sincerity’ – Thanh remarks – ‘My client from Nokia once melted my agency because he asked every agency member whether he/she got home safely after the heavy rain’. If the agency also takes the effort to understand the client, it’ll be easier to find similar values and build trust.

I ask her what she’ll do if her agency’s values and clients’ are poles apart. ‘In this case’ – Thanh said – ‘switching is unavoidable. The client deserves to work with an agency which matches their style and vice versa. But usually both sides will try their hardest to adapt and switching is the last resort. It’s like avoiding a divorce’.

Figure 3: Like a fairy tale - Ms Thanh Tran and Mr. Binh Le on their wedding day in 2011. They tied the knot after working together for 3 years as an account executive and a client respectively. ‘We still fight whenever Binh complains about agencies and I talk bad about clients (laugh). But then we trust each other enough to let go of these differences.’ - Thanh said.  (Photo given to the author by Thanh)

Figure 3: Like a fairy tale – Ms Thanh Tran and Mr. Binh Le on their wedding day in 2011. They tied the knot after working together for 3 years as an account executive and a client respectively. ‘We still fight whenever Binh complains about agencies and I talk bad about clients (laugh). But then we trust each other enough to let go of these differences.’ – Thanh said. (Photo given to the author by Thanh)

In times of conflicts, married couples fight and so do clients and agencies. Thanh recalls yelling at her husband on their dinner date because he forgot to answer her work emails. Thanh says agencies and clients argue all the time, which is not a bad thing because through this they understand each other more, get constructive criticism and build greater trust. ‘Don’t take arguments personally’.

But it’s hard to remain level-headed during arguments!’ – I exclaim, to which she replies: ‘Remember that clients also have tough times with budget cuts and sudden changes in marketing plans. Understanding this will help agencies sympathize with clients and get their trust too. That’s what my husband tells me every time I complain about difficult clients (laugh)’.

To wrap up, I ask Thanh for 3 tips for future client managers. She summarizes her points succinctly:

–          Collaborate with clients, don’t confront them.

–          Be proactive. Initiate the trust-building process.

–          Keep calm and solve problems. Have a ‘cool’ brain and a ‘hot’ heart – like Solomon (2008) said.

Thanh finished her tea then told me before saying goodbye: ‘They say married couples must trust each other, so do clients and agencies. Without trust I wouldn’t have married my husband or worked with any other client. That’s why building trust is vital, and I hope my tips are useful for you.’

Yes they definitely are. This interview has allowed me to reflect on what I’ve learned about trust during this course and inspired me to become a great account manager. Oh, not to forget Thanh’s adorable love story as well! 😉

Word count: 660 words

Author: Nguyen Thi Nam Phuong – s3360654

Figure 4: Proof-of-life photo. This was taken during a party I attended with Thanh. (Author’s photo)

Figure 4: Proof-of-life photo. This was taken during a party I attended with Thanh. (Author’s photo)

References

Davies, M & Prince, M 2005, ‘Dynamics of trust between clients and their advertising agencies: Advances in Performance theory’, Academy of Marketing Science Review, vol.7, no. 11, pp. 1-35.

Fam, K & Waller, D 2008, ‘Agency-Client Relationship Factors Across Life-Cycle Stages’, Journal of Relationship Marketing, vol. 7(2), pp. 217-236

Parekh, R 2013, ‘Chase the Crown: Ad Age Searches for Longest, Strongest Agency-Client Marriage’, image, Ad Age, 26 March, viewed 5 January 2014, <http://adage.com/article/agency-news/ad-age-searches-strongest-agency-client-marriage/240503/>

Solomon, R 2008,The Arts of Client Service, Kaplan, New York

Making ‘Sustainability’ as an Extra Value for Your Clients

Writen by Le Thi Han – s3393951

Managing the client-agency relationship is very challenging when it comes to the issue of mutual understanding. Last week, I came to Nielsen research agency to get the professional’s solution to strengthen the mutual understanding and I was especially surprised by the way Nielsen created extra value for its clients.

From a friend’s recommendation, I was introduced to Ms. DinhThi Kim Huyen, who is a five-year senior executive at Nielsen research agency. Being an expert in measurement and information, Nielsen empowers its clients by providing deep consumers and market insight for a more profitable strategy. The company also has very good reputation with long history of operation and the staff’s skills. As one of the leaders research agency, both local and global clients, whether they are in media, consumer packaged goods, telecom or advertising from small to large scale, usually come to Nielsen for its services (Nielsen, 2013).

Ms.Huyen is in charge of not only leading the internal teams but also meeting and dealing with the clients. In other words, she decides how long and strong the relationship between Nielsen and its client can last. Therefore, I came straight to the company and asked for her experience in client management.

Image

Figure 1: ‘Proof of life photo – Taken by Ms Huyen subordinate’

Mutual understanding is a must

According to IPENZ (2005), the success of human relationship is built by spending times and effort to understand each other business and circumstances. Although it takes a long time to proceed, mutual understanding between client and agency not only can build stronger relationship but also can produce productive and effective outcomes.

Educating your client and creating added value for them

However, it is not always that the clients understand what Nielsen does but they also have conflicts sometimes. For Nielsen, the biggest problem is the timeline as clients often want the proposer earlier than the expected deadline. “We understand that they are curious with the findings and want to set up the strategy as soon as possible but quality, price and time cannot stand equally for a successful project”, MsHuyen illustrated. With that misunderstanding, it not only can ruin the projects but also can harm the agency-client relationship.   As a result, there is a need for self-training to get mutual understanding between clients and agency.

Ms. Huyen shared with me her strategy in dealing with this problem. “First of all, we’re not gonna blame clients or complaint anything but accept the decision”, she said. “Secondly, we do tell them that the price-time-quality triangle cannot be fulfilled and try to give them as much as possible at that time”, she added. Thus, the client can understand how complicated the job is and tend to take it easier on the agency.

However, it still somehow can dissatisfy the client so Ms. Huyengave me a very clever tip to work on it. “We also ask them for quick feedback and develop a full and more sustainable proposal with extra research about related field on the first expected deadline”, she said.  It shows that the agency is responsible with the project but they also make sustainability as added value for the client. Moreover, both parties are required to work together so it can enhance their mutual understanding and relationship.

It is clear that client management is not only about satisfying the client but also about understanding them. The mutual understand between agency and client can be developed through training and collaboration of both sides. Moreover, creating added value for clients is also necessary to go beyond their expectation and win their loyalty in the relationship.

Word count: 597

References

Nielsen, 2013, ‘About Us’, viewed 24 December 2013, http://www.nielsen.com/intl/vn/about-us.html .

The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Incorporated (IPENZ), 2005, ‘Developing and Maintaining Client Relationship”, Practice No.6, http://www.ipenz.org.nz/ipenz/forms/pdfs/PN06_Maintaining_Client_Relationships.pdf.

The journey of a farmer into business

Mr. Hung might be no one in a broad and busy Vietnamese business environment, and seems to be a wrong choice for interviewer. But do not be mistaken! Lessons do not always come from big names and famous brands. They also start from small and simple things.

A seemingly farmers look, Mr. Nguyen Huu Hung, can hardly come across as a successful owner of Tan Phat sewing workshop and as an example of effective client relationship management (CRM).  After several minutes into conversation, under the common appearance, Mr. Hung appears as a deep well of wisdom, experience, passion and professional knowledge.

The current success of this small workshop has to do a lot with the organizational culture, because it glues everything together and predetermines many decisions and courses of action. In my interviewee’s case, there is a so-called “Power Culture”, where all the decisions come from the owner himself. There can be many debates, as to the effectiveness of this organizational culture type, but for a small business, it proved to be rather effective. With eighteen employees, it is not difficult to control the operations and the workflow. In the Vietnamese economic environment, a strong leader means a lot; Mr. Hung became such a leader and support for his employees and the workshop in general and hold people together. Furthermore, he has other methods to maintain his business, and that will be explained by his story life.

Photo by Tram N 2013

Photo by Tram N 2013

Mr. Hung was born in Nha Be province, a poor and backward place in 1970s. He quitted his study at Secondary school and started to work as a farmer for living. Then he left the countryside to Ho Chi Minh City with empty hands, worked as masonry, watchman, waiter and so on. He stated that the moment changed his life goal is when he was in a job interview for a famous restaurant. He remembers that the boss came and asked him why he wanted to work there. He answered honestly that because of the uniform, he wanted to wear good outfit but never had a chance to. The boss said that one of the elements that made his restaurant different from others is that he invested to customers’ satisfaction such as uniform. He required Mr. Hung to please him with small tests and then agree to give him a job. “That was my first lesson from the boss, pleasing people in order to get the goals”, said Mr. Hung. He worked there for 7 years, became a senior manager, learned his own experience from managing employees, controlling the workload and especially dealing with customers. During that time, he read many books about business and enterprise fields, self-study English and realized that he wants to run his own career.

In 2005, he went back to hometown and bought a sewing machine to process clothes from local workshops. Small workshops usually postponed and refuse the payment, so he analyzed which is the bad debt that could not take back and ask for a half of payment only. Most of them accepted because they only see temporary profit, but lost long-term trust from partners. Thus, instead of asking for nothing, Mr. Hung gave up a half of it to keep relationship, reputation and trust to clients in the market. In the discussion paper, Kundisch (2010) explained the vitality of building trust besides customer satisfaction and loyalty. It is stated, “Companies – regardless of the industry they are operating in – should proactively invest in trust building activities.” (Kundisch 2010) Also, this is a win-win situation he achieved. Indeed, strive for mutual benefit is one of the inescapable points of reference for a wise CRM. Understanding this simple rule can be the golden standard for many businessmen.

In 2008, he run his own sewing workshop and received order from factories. At first, he had eight sewing machines with ten employees. Recently, he owns fifteen sewing machines and employs eighteen workers with stable income. The average income of his business is 50 million dongs per month, which greatly exceeds the national average around two million dongs (General Statistics Office of Vietnam 2013). Due to economic crisis, factories cut down many partners, but they still keep his workshop. He used CRM that is one of the crucial elements for any company that is oriented towards the long-term result. The ideas of continuous client acquisition and retention require a lot of hard work on behalf of the company. In theory, CRM includes four steps: acquisition, profiling and segmentation, personal offers, and tracking. These steps can help the firm to compile a solid customer database and to maintain lasting relationship. In reality, though, the process does not always unfold exactly according to those steps. Mr. Hung managed to build a successful practice in cooperation with factories. CRM is clearly visible in this relationship, because it shows the importance of long and trusting cooperation.

Photo by Tram N 2013

Photo by Tram N 2013

Kumar (2010) in the book Customer Relationship Management discusses the importance of a one-to-one relationship with the client. Kumar also suggests the use of many marketing strategies for retention of the customers and gaining new ones. As for Mr. Hung, do not be wrong that the major part of his success seems to rely on the already-established relationship, which does not require from him a lot of marketing. He mentioned that in the business, the key importance is to make the clients stick with us, and do not depend on them. Therefore, he keeps looking for new customer attraction. He revealed that he is aiming to cooperate with a foreign investment factory, and he is confident with his English in communication with new client.

Thinking about this issue, it became clear that with the right approach, the given business could become even more successful. For instance, as Woody Driggs (2013) suggested that the company would be more successful with the use of customer analysis. It is important to study the needs of the people one works with, and to make sure that those needs get satisfied. So, the suggested five steps in the article look like a rather logical and sound way to improve operations. To take one example, Mr. Hung could gain profound insights into his customer’s preferences, and then create a detailed action plan to provide for those needs. Payne (2006) reported that 60% of organization was failed when apply CRM plan into business, so that Mr. Hung’s workshop is a good example of success for small family-run business. In times of economic hardships, this small firm still manages to develop and to earn profit, as well as to give jobs to the people around.

Word count: 1099

ALIEN BABIES AND ALLIES: FOSTERING UNDERSTANDING AND NEGOTIATING CONFLICT WITHIN AN AGENCY

When I was around 5 years old I got into the profession of playground dealing. My goods: Alien Babies. As with nearly every childhood obsession, Alien Babies were useless parental pocket emptiers, consisting of a rubber alien submerged in gelatinous goo and encased in a plastic egg. My partner in crime did the dealing, I spread the word, and trading began.

Clients stretched from the seesaw to the swings and soon enough the playground had a roaring black-market of sci-fi spawn. However, just as we had begun, we fell short in our inability to communicate effectively and yes, my business partner traded my prized egg. There were tears, and there was trouble (despite showing promise, childhood dealing isn’t quite encouraged). But, I came out of primary school realising that internal communication is key, and that alien babies were no longer cool.

Aforementioned Alien Babies, Reproduced from CraftyCrocodiles 2013

An advertising agency today isn’t far from a children’s playground. Managers oversee general behavior, media buyers sit reading and researching in the corners, and well, sometimes those account kids go and kick up a mess in the creative department’s sand pit. Advertising exists in its own retrospective microcosm.

“The one thing I can say about advertising is you don’t just do it as a job, you do it because you have a sense of passion. By it’s very nature there is always conflict.” said Joshua Lee, an account director at TBWA Vietnam.

Reproduced by Thaine 2013

Proof of life, Reproduced by Thaine 2013

Having moved to Vietnam this year as an Australian expat, Josh has experienced the initial stages of entering an establishment. Being the new kid to the playground can be tough, and the need to prove oneself is an evolutionary trait. Whereas some may feel the need to quickly woo clients, for Josh forging internal relationships is what always comes first when entering and working within an agency.

The advertising industry is service based, and therefore needs clients. Without clients there is no money, and it’s not rocket science to realise that without money, there is no agency. It’s this financial need that has driven much of the discourse surrounding client-agency relationships to become more client centric. “The client always comes first” and “the client is always right” are phrases that practically come as second nature to anyone in the industry.  But, what of the internal relationships within an agency? Should an agency prioritize its need for a relationship with its client, or its colleagues?

 Trust

“Trust within the company is a huge thing. Even more important than trust with clients” replied Josh.  “In Australia the biggest issue I’ve always faced is building trust, and once you have that, your job becomes a thousand times easier”.

In their article, The Enemies of Trust, Robert Galford and Anne Drapeau support this idea, suggesting that internal relationships are far more “complicated and fragile” as a result of the nature of trust within an organisation. When dealing with a client there should be few communicative channels, aiming to create a sense of communication synergy and in turn, trust (Galford & Drapeau 2003). However, within an agency, messages are being passed around rapidly, from accounts to secretaries, to creative and managers. Messages can get lost in the mix, particularly when conflicting goals come into play (Galford & Drapeau 2003).

Accounts vs. Creative

This notion of conflicting goals is one that theoretically should not occur within an agency, but without relationships or a sense of trust, do occur. Most notably it’s where creative and accounts teams collide.

When asked of this stereotypical clash between creative and accounts, Josh simply conceded in an agreeable nod and shrug of the shoulders, “as a member of the accounts team, I just want to find an idea that the client will buy, but the creatives don’t want that. They want to do the first this and that, and to push ideas”. Both creative and accounts ultimately aim to please the client and prove the agency among the industry, but as Josh discussed, both parties can have potentially conflicting forces, pulling them away, or ideally together.

Accounts vs. Creative, Reproduced from BrinnyArt 2011

To have a more account or creative driven agency does not denote conflict and negative performance, however. Darryl Ohrt of Humongo sees agencies as being one or the other, and outlines that its not about substituting and neglecting each team, but about the “over-arching philosophy that’s typically driven from the top of the organization chart” (Ohrt 2010). Whether that be idea, or client goal driven.

Unless you’re the American government, conflict is generally thought of as a detrimental and unnecessary thing. In advertising, however, it can be argued that a touch of tension here and there can lead to more productive work. When asking Josh about pressure and creativity, he responded by informing me that the creatives “absolutely need pressure”, even though this can come with a little conflict.

Donna Ambriano from Ogilvy’s creative department, agrees with this, and encourages an “open dialogue (and sometimes yelling), and the knowledge that we’re more than employed at the same company. We’re on the same team.” (Ambriano 2013) It’s through creating mutual understanding, and outlining common ground that trust can develop (Tovey 2013).

It’s an idea that Josh supports, stating that “It’s not uncommon to have fights…Often creative will be like ‘whatever’, who is this guy, but when they trust that you’re in it with them, great work gets done.”

Leadership

Resolving conflicts and balancing a company’s emotional quotient is easier said than done. Often it comes down to the way in which parties lead each other and use tactfully use criticism. The notion of transformational leadership, whereby the interaction between leader and follower is based on establishing goals and improving moral, is something I raised with Josh (McDowelle 2009).

Responding, Josh stated that when it comes to criticism, “everything has to be based on a really doable action”, and that any sort of berating can dissolve any sense of trust established, and without trust, how can a relationship prosper?

Working in advertising doesn’t mean that you have to be friends with everyone in your agency. Personality clashes are intrinsic to advertising’s nature, but that shouldn’t compromise trust and understanding. Working within an agency is about creating allies, not messing around with alien babies.

Words: 1019

Marcus Thaine is a final year Professional Communication student at RMIT University. Next year he hopes to begin work as a copywriter and welcomes any conflict with the accounts team.

References

Galford, R. and Seibold Drapeau, A. 2003. The Enemies of Trust. Harvard Business Review, Iss. Feburary 2003.

Mcdowelle, J. 2009. A Contemporary Consideration of Transformative Leadership. Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, 3 (2).

Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide Blog. 2013. Working With Us: A Semi-Serious Take on the Account/Creative Relationship (From the Creative Perspective). [online] Available at: http://blog.ogilvychww.com/2013/03/01/working-with-semi-serious-take-accountcreative-relationship-creative-perspective/ [Accessed: 5 Sep 2013].

Ohrt, D. 2013. Is Your Agency Account-Driven or Creative-Driven?. AdAge, [online] 12 October. Available at: http://adage.com/article/small-agency-diary/advertising-agency-account-driven-creative-driven/146361/ [Accessed: 5 Sep 2013].

Principledselling.org. 2013. Building trust through understanding. [online] Available at: http://www.principledselling.org/2013/04/13/building-trust-through-understanding/ [Accessed: 5 Sep 2013].

What clients seek

“I understand most agencies have their own guidelines for dealing with clients. They tell their client managers how to speak, what gestures to make and what to say, etc. This is all perfectly reasonable because at the end of the day, they need to have their services approved by their clients. How else are they going to make ends meet? Unfortunately, from my point of view, things start to get quite repetitive after a while and it turns out most pitches are similar to a certain extent. This makes them predictable and, I don’t mean to be rude, also rather boring. Thus, the ideas and pitches that stand out is the winner. Naturally, they have to be of, at the very least, decent quality, but as a rule of thumb, I’d say if you can dazzle, you will most likely win.”

Figure 1. Ms. Chi Tran (right). Photo taken by author.

Figure 1. Ms. Chi Tran (left). Photo taken by author.

Figure 2. Colgate-Palmolive Logo. Reproduced from Career Builder Vietnam.

Ms. Chi Tran is a Human Resources (HR) Director at Colgate-Palmolive Vietnam (Colgate). The paragraph above is a small portion of her answer when I asked her  how she would recommend communication agencies to approach the pitching phrase and also how to deal with their client afterwards. As an HR Manager, Ms. Chi and her team has held many internal events for the company’s staff and employees. These events are usually not very large and although I initially assumed Colgate can plan and execute them by themselves, it turned out the company actually has been recruiting the services of many domestic communication agencies to assist them in making these events as special as possible for the staff and employees.

Figure 3. Made to Stick. Reproduced from Amazon.

Surprisingly, Ms. Chi mentioned the book Made to Stick (Heath & Heath 2007) as soon as I asked her for advice on how to communicate effectively with my future clients. As part of my studies in Client Management at RMIT, Made to Stick was used as a reference point on many aspects of the task of managing a client, or many clients for that matter. Although she recommended the book because it contains many valuable lessons, she disapproves of how many people seem to think of it as the go-to guide for professional communication behavior and etiquette. To a certain extent, the book can even be considered the definition of effective communication, but in no way is it universally applicable.

“Made to Stick isn’t actually unique. There was Tipping Point in 2000 and just recently there was Contagious. These books are reference points, not guidelines. It is a given that you would want to be, most ideally, in the service of large multinational companies and giant conglomerates when you graduate. Keep in mind, however, that your clients, the ones you will be interacting with for most of the time, are individuals. Yes, you can read all about how to deal with people and how to persuade or appeal to them, but at the end of the day, there is no sure-fire way to anticipate human reasoning and behavior, at least not that I’m aware of.”

Figure 4. The Tipping Point. Reproduced from Wikipedia.

Figure 5. Contagious. Reproduced from New York Times.

It would appear, then, that the success of these books has become the downfall of whoever sticks to them too closely. They are so widely read and their instructions so commonly applied that clients have become “immune” to them. So if not even the critically applauded and best-selling Made to Stick, its spiritual predecessor The Tipping Point (Gladwell 2000) as well as its spiritual successor Contagious (Berger 2013) can reliably provide a to-do list that can guarantee a high level of success, what can agencies in general and, more specifically, client managers do to be in sync with their clients?

“Just leave out all the rest and focus on the now and next.”

Ms. Chi’s biggest gripe with most agencies is that sometimes they tend to focus too much on brandishing their past accomplishments and do not pay enough attention to the details that will get them the contract. Past accomplishments, achievements and awards are great to look back upon at the end of a tiring work day, but they play no part in guaranteeing a high quality project in the present and future. A vivid example for this line of reasoning can be observed in professional sports in which a team winning the title the previous year does not necessarily mean they will repeat as champions the coming year. Ms. Chi humorously called agencies who focused too much on what they have achieved in the past “shiners” because they tend to “shine” their trophies instead of looking forward to acquiring new trophies. In other words, they spend their time presenting to her and her colleagues why they are qualified for the job but not why the project will be a success in their hands. And no company is willing to commit a budget to a project without a clear picture of what it will actually be like.

“Try to do the presentation at our pace, not yours and keep it steady. Drive slow.”

In psychology, there is a theoretical basis for several cognitive biases called naive realism (Ross & Ward 1995). The social cognitive bias that Ms. Chi is most concerned of is the Curse of Knowledge coined by Robin Hogarth (Camerer, Loewenstein & Weber 1989), according to which better-informed individuals have difficulty thinking about certain matters from the perspective of lesser-informed people. When giving presentations, it is important to determine how much the client know about the subject matter being discussed and walk them through all the details step by step. This might sound simple enough but in reality, it is anything but. Over the course of her career, Ms. Chi has not had much problems with this but she said some of her colleagues (she did not reveal their names and positions) can easily be put off by phrases such as “obviously” or “as everyone knows”. Beware of the Curse of Knowledge, she said, because while we communication abstract terms and jargons for granted, the uninitiated will only be hearing opaque phrases (Heath & Heath 2006).

“Be presentable. It’s not good if your presentation looks better than yourself.”

I’ve observed that the communication industry requires less stringent dress codes. However, as Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man” (Atkins 2012). True, what we wear affects how we perceive ourselves, and how others perceive us as well. As future client managers, we will one day be representing our entire agency as we should make ourselves look as appealing to the client’s eyes as possible. Many people mistake being well-dressed for being dressed in expensive clothes. Nothing can be further from the truth. A dress from NEM will look just as good as one from Margiela if the wearer knows how to adorn it.

Although our interview was brief, it contained much useful information. Ms. Chi did not gave me many suggestions to take into the workplace, she only gave me the most relevant ones. I will end this blog with another of her gems.

“You should dazzle your client by working with purpose. Don’t be fancy. Simply and truthfully show your client who you really are and what you can really do because if they cannot be convinced by the real you, all the fancy extras in the world will not help you succeed.”

References:

Atkins, A 2012, “Clothes Make the Man”, Atkin’s Bookshelf, posted March 2012, viewed 5 September 2013, http://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/clothes-make-the-man/.

Camerer, C, Loewenstein, G & Weber, M 1989, “The Curse of Knowledge in Economic Settings: An Experimental Analysis”, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 97, No. 5, pp. 1232-1254.

Heath, C & Heath, D 2006, “The Curse of Knowledge”, Harvard Business Review, posted December 2006, viewed 5 September 2013, http://hbr.org/2006/12/the-curse-of-knowledge/ar/1.

Kakutani, M 2013, “Mapping Out the Path to Viral Fame”, New York Times, posted February 2013, viewed 5 September 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/books/contagious-why-things-catch-on-by-jonah-berger.html.

Ross, L & Ward, A 1996, “Naive Realism in everyday life: Implications for social conflict and misunderstanding”, in T Brown, ES Reed & E Turiel (eds), Values and knowledge, Taylor & Francis, New Jersey, USA, pp. 103-105.

Bibliography:

Berger, J 2013, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Simon & Schuster, New York, USA.

Gladwell, M 2000, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Little Brown, New York, USA.

Heath, C & Heath, D 2007, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Random House, New York, USA.

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