Here’s a question: What does your agency quality assurance policy look like?
In my experience it’s usually something that has been pulled together with the sole intention of ticking a box during a procurement-led roster review or tender process. In most cases, it had been inherited from another agency, topped, tailed and tweaked a bit. Ask anyone in the agency not directly involved with procurement, RFIs or tenders and I doubt they will know of its existence, let alone its content. It might talk loosely about approval processes and meeting clients objectives but rarely offers anything of any substance.
The reason for this is completely understandable. The tender process is so excruciating that the quality policy is relegated; along with the professional indemnity insurance certificate, the health and safety policy and other such delights, to the folder marked ‘Must Have’ deep in the dusty RFI archive.
But here’s the thing. Your quality assurance policy could, and should, be critical to protecting and growing agency revenues.
So let’s go back a step. It’s hard to win clients. I’ve talked about this a lot in previous posts, in fact I talk about this all the time – and you know this already – but few agencies I speak to are putting the necessary safeguards in place to make the most of those hard-won relationships. The much discussed IPA report From Mad Men To Sad Men painted a grim picture of the state of client/agency relations when it was published last month.
Much like new business, the development of existing client business is often haphazard and even in the hands of the most proactive client service teams, the client plans, the process and momentum can get abandoned when things get busy. Moreover, rarely is anyone measuring the activity and opportunities generated from coordinated client planning.
We know that effective client planning and proactive, business focused (rather than project focused) account direction can build more profitable relationships – however, combined with a quality programme, a process that measures the quality of the client relationship then we can start to see significant bottom line advantage.
Late last year during my DBA workshop (Turning Clients into Advocates) we discussed client satisfaction programmes and the experience and opinion in the room was varied.
Of the 10 agencies present:
- 7 hadn’t tried it
- 1 had tried it and found it a complete waste of time
- 1 had tried it and whilst it hadn’t been successful, knew why it hadn’t worked and wanted to try again
- 1 had a successful programme up and running – it had been transformational for the business
My experience is closer to the latter. Gunpowder has worked with an agency for the last two years, up-skilling the client service team and building a framework with which to measure client satisfaction. The results? Existing client revenues were maintained against a predicted reduction in budgets, satisfaction scores went up, and the referrals from happy clients resulted in significant new business wins.
So, what are the ingredients for a successful programme? First of all we need to think of it as a quality programme rather than a client satisfaction survey. It is not a one hit wonder. To really see the results it requires time, planning, resource, investment and commitment. Ideally it needs to happen every year and be carried out by a third party. The benefits need to be clearly communicated to clients, to staff and the process must become part of the agency culture. It will probably feel uncomfortable – you are being measured, you are accountable, there’s nowhere to hide.
Nevertheless, the benefits of a well-executed quality programme are worth it. You’ll gain respect from your clients. Deeper, more informed relationships. You have the opportunity to discuss and fix problems before they fester. You can monitor the relevance of your service offering. You have benchmarks for performance, for individuals, teams and the agency as a whole. Best of all, the process inevitably generates referrals.
You’ll have a quality policy that doesn’t just sit in a tender application folder gathering digital dust, you’ll have a quality mark, a programme you can shout about, build into your new business credentials for all the world to see.
What are you waiting for?
Gunpowder provides Account Development workshops and bespoke client satisfaction-led quality programmes. For more information, get in touch.