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Just what do client service people do?

10 October 2013 Jim Harrison,

Emma Tranter writes...

Some tables stand up with just one leg. In the agency world this is Creative.
You can get more stability with two legs. Happily, many agencies are wise to the benefits of Strategy. Now, three legs provide real rigidity. The third leg of our proverbial table is Client Service.

Most creatives don’t really know what client service people do: “something to do with money?”. Moreover, many clients don’t see the value in paying for project management and client service, resulting in these fees being hidden by agencies within with the creative budget. And so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that the role of client service remains underrated.

Yet the role of client service is a fundamental one. Not only do client service people build relationships with clients - and we all know that a client who feels able to trust and partner their agency gets the best work – they also build relationships with the creative and strategy teams. They foster unity amongst these differing factions, achieving the optimum project direction whilst making all parties feel listened to and valued. All this on time, on budget and on brief.

At times diplomat, best mate, a shoulder to cry on, the voice of reason, strict parent-figure, arbitrator, negotiator, presenter, mathematician, raconteur, benefactor and mentor, the client service role is challenging and varied one.

On a nuts and bolts level, it’s fair to say that in some agencies, nothing happens without client service. They write proposals; develop detailed timelines and costs; brief the creative and strategy teams clearly and concisely; ensure that creative and strategy deliver within their allotted time; review output against agreed judgment criteria; copy check the details; interpret, probe and confirm client feedback; action next steps; plan ahead; organise meetings; anticipate potential pitfalls; champion good ideas; cross-quote; remember the small print; get relevant approvals and sign offs; chair meetings; make decisions; plan resource; confirm agreed actions; monitor multiple strands of a project; update stakeholders on project status; manage expectations on all sides; put things in writing and organise birthday, wedding and baby gifts.

A good client service person invisibly steers the Good Ship Project through choppy waters, such that the crew think the journey was an easy one. Hence the tendency for the role of client service to be an invisible and underrated one. Yes, like the 3rd leg on a sturdy table, if you do your job well, you won’t be noticed.


Header image courtesy of Flickr user 'shirokazan'

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