Jo White

By Jo White

Collaboration is the essential ingredient to success for modern agency teams. With digital so prevalent across organisations, agency teams need to easily integrate with client teams.

This presents a challenge as – although often fully integrated – there’s an agency/client contractual relationship. Team members represent your agency at critical moments, often without the support of a client services team. And the people embedded are often from a technical background so can lack the client services skills needed to deal with complex client challenges.

For these reasons, it’s essential for modern agencies to train their frontline staff in client services skills. Giving your team the skills, frameworks and processes they need to manage relationships gives them the confidence they need to represent you in front of clients.

The paradox of ‘digital’ transformation

Blockbuster video – once the leading name in home entertainment – filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Blockbuster was one of many multinational businesses that had fallen victim to the changing digital landscape and failed to keep up with changes in consumer lifestyles.

Wary of falling to a similar fate, brands began to look deeply at how they could adapt to this new world. They began looking at how to become ‘customer centric’ and leverage technology to meet changing customer expectations, improve operations and gain competitive advantage. This process was dubbed ‘digital transformation’.

Consultancies were called in to run workshops, map systems and design operating models that take advantage of the new opportunities available to them. But there was a problem… the deeper they went, the more opportunities presented themselves.

Brands quickly realised that ‘digital transformation’ was not as simple as creating a digital team. Digital had become so prevalent that what was required was transformation across every aspect of the organisation.

Working models changed – Agile, iterative working and continuous delivery were introduced. Brands began actively seeking innovation. Add to this a new generation of employees who were digitally native and it was obvious that the idea of compartmentalising digital was impossible.

Thus what was once ‘digital transformation’ became simply ‘transformation’.

Brands quickly realised that transformation was required across every aspect of the organisation

The agency model

This transformation had a marked effect on the digital agency model. Brands brought digital expertise in-house – taking ownership of key activities such as design, development and digital marketing.

‘Product thinking’ and continuous delivery meant brands weren’t procuring agencies to deliver individual projects. Instead, they developed agency/client partnerships that could interface with their teams and plug holes in skill and capacity. Agency teams are often required to work on-site and fully integrated with client teams.

This creates a challenge for client service teams.

Traditionally the interface between client and agency, client services find themselves at arms length from delivery teams and increasingly reliant on relationships with budget holders. This removes the layer of protection they would provide to more technically-focussed roles who may not have the same level of client management skills.

The modern agency

This new paradigm requires a shift in thinking for agencies. Rather than delivering on a project-by-project basis, modern digital agencies are in long-term partnerships with their clients adding value across the business.

Many digital agencies now have a ‘managed service’ offering. They provide their clients with rapid access to high calibre people, with minimal hassle and the flexibility to up- or down-size with ease.

Interfacing with clients in this way places a high level of trust in client-facing team members. Often isolated from client services, these teams – typically with no formal training or interest in client services – are the new face of your agency. These teams do great work, but that alone isn’t enough. Now they have to do great work and get clients to buy into that work. Their skills in managing conflict, building relationships and leading stakeholders are integral to the success of your agency/client relationships and the growth of your accounts.

Skills in managing conflict, building relationships and leading stakeholders are integral to the success of client relationships

Distributed client skills

So if your client-facing teams are now your gateway to clients, how will you make sure they have the skills to deliver the best possible client experience?

It’s simple: Take what makes your client services team great and inject it across your business. The end result: An agency full of client superstars, happy clients and an increase in retained business.

At Team Sterka, we teach a full curriculum of client leadership skills designed exactly for this purpose. So if you’re considering a business model that aligns your technical teams with your clients, let’s have a conversation and perhaps we can help make your transition a success.

Take what makes your client services team great and inject it across your business

It’s all about collaboration

Someone once described collaboration to me as an ‘uber-skill’. They weren’t referencing modern transportation, but the importance of collaboration between agency and client to deliver great results.

Distributed client skills mean you can confidently bring your teams closer to your clients delivering great work via true collaboration.

Team Sterka transforms behaviour so everyone has client leadership skills. Here’s how we transform agency teams.

Photos by Campaign Creators and Leon on Unsplash

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