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Ruminations from open’s internal braintrust

Expertise is organic. It must be constantly nurtured if it is to grow and flourish. This is one of the fundamental pillars of OPEN’s internal culture.

Marvin Chaulk, Vice-President, Senior Consultant
OPEN Communications

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the opinions and musings behind the expertise

Blog Author: Lynn Whiffen

Client is King – Or Queen

Lynn Whiffen

Posted: May 16, 2013

In the agency world, it seems almost rote to say that the client is king; the center of our operational universe, the focus of everything we do. But invariably, the saying and the doing are often miles apart. It is a strange dynamic, to say the least: agencies, which can develop a communications platform to speak to an audience of millions with relative ease, struggling to communicate with their own clients.

It might seem counterintuitive, but then that’s human relations. Look around you. How many relationships do you know that you would consider dysfunctional? We can all name a few. And when you probe deeper, you invariably find that there is little to no real communication. They don’t talk. And without talk there’s no understanding. Without understanding, there’s no relationship. Period.

The key to success is straightforward: you have to want it. It’s not rocket science, but it does require real effort, insight and no small measure of fortitude.

In my career in client services, I have learned my share of absolutes. The most critical is that if you don’t know your client, you simply can’t do your job effectively. And if I fail in my role, any chance of my team’s success is immediately doomed. You might be surprised to discover that this happens all too frequently with agencies, where big ideas combine with big egos to dictate the course of development, losing sight of who their clients are and how critical they are to the process and its chances of success.

As an Accounts Manager here at OPEN Communications, it is critical for me to begin any client relationship by getting to know my clients as people first. Establishing a genuine, open dialogue allows you to appreciate the context of their position, their goals, their team dynamics and by extension, their company’s internal cultural influences, challenges and pressures. This is how you identify the essential commonalities and understandings that ultimately shapes an efficient development process and produces targeted results.

So I challenge all you agency types out there: list your top 3 clients and 3 characteristics about them.

Characteristic 1 – Does your primary point of contact have a significant other? It may seem trivial, but our relationships define us.

Characteristic 2 – What’s their best day of the week? Gauging work habits and team dynamics is crucial to efficient workflow.

Characteristic 3 – Are they visual types? Or do they prefer text descriptions? You would be flabbergasted at how many great concepts have been trashed because they weren’t presented in the proper way.

Answering these questions won’t pave the way for better client relations. But they will help initiate the process that will ultimately get you there. You have to start somewhere.

Then you can declare with assurance that the client truly is your king. Or queen.