Just agency whining or legitimate criticism? You decide!

This is how to collect karma points when dealing with your service providers

By definition, agencies are service providers. Just like taxi drivers or hairdressers. And the way you're nice to the taxi driver, even though it doesn't make the ride any shorter and to the hairdresser, even though it doesn't make your hair any fuller, is the same way one could expect clients to deal with agencies. Unfortunately, this is no matter of course. The question of dealing with others respectfully and the appreciation of their activities doesn’t enter into the equation for agency work all too often. But it can make a huge difference when working together.

Why even bother being friendly to people who are doing a service that you paid for? Because it's not just about what you get for your money. It’s also about the give and take on a human level. Friendliness, decency and respect are not conceptual notions, but important interpersonal values, which ensure a good feeling for all concerned. And good feelings are not only desirable in themselves – They motivate, promote creativity, foster trust and connectedness and help us to better understand the needs of others. They're the strongest driver for better (service) performance.

To translate it into marketing language: Successful brands are always "customer-centric" and place the needs of customers at the center of their actions. If you include all those who contribute to the success of the brand in this way of thinking, and expand the "customer-centric" approach into a "human-centric approach," you can not only look forward to some karma points, but also a solid 'return' on 'investment'.

This is why it's a surprise to see which scenarios and approaches agencies are confronted with. Below are a few examples of this and how we would like to do it differently. Whether it's just whining or justified criticism, you decide!

Whine 1: Rejection with class

Those who regularly compete with other agencies are used to losing time. That's just part of business. Sometimes it hurts more, sometimes less. It's particularly painful when you've put your heart into reaching a goal, gave a great presentation, received great feedback from the specialist department and went several rounds with purchasing. Then, for weeks, you hear nothing, can't reach anyone and at some point, receive a two-line rejection e-mail from the Junior Product Manager.

People like to hear an explanation as to why. That would be a rejection with style. That helps the company's reputation and the person. Of course, it's always unpleasant to reject someone. But we also need the negative feedback in order to get better and to explain to all involved agency workers what the most technical reasons are for them not making it farther. A bit of short feedback is enough, but unfortunately it's not always the norm.

Whine 2: Fair remuneration

Everyone's performance is very individual. Every idea, every activity is reconsidered. Often under enormous time pressure. This requires well-trained and highly motivated employees whose performance is individually calculated. Because we basically sell the pure working hours of our qualified employees. The client's department rightly demands the best people for the account. In return, the purchasing department tries to squeeze out the last bit of profit. Good people cost good money. That's always been the case. And it’ll surely stay that way.

We're delighted to see people negotiate prices with people who understand that agencies need to make money and hire specialized staff who have their price. This quote from a marketing manager: "I want my agency to do well economically, so I can put the best people on the account". That would be a fair standard!

Whine 3: Long breath

Whether it's due to uncertainty, the demand for fresh input, or the purchase-driven calls for inserts that the specialist department doesn't really want: There are companies that change their agencies faster than the leased company vehicle. But brand management requires continuity. How can you lead a brand in the long term if you change agencies every two or three years?

We’re pleased when our clients recognize that an agency that has internalized the details of a brand is very valuable to the company. It's incomprehensible that this is so seldom the case. In the USA, there are brands that have had the same agency partner for 50 years. Here that's hardly the norm!

Whine 4: Keeping others up to date

Agency workers are used to working under pressure. At times, we're faced with timings that are unrealistic from the outset. Nevertheless, we always gladly take it upon ourselves to get it done. Of course, for a fair and good client who, in exceptional circumstances, needs the support of the agency very quickly. No problem.

It just feels very unfair when you’ve worked through the weekend to meet the deadline, and then you're informed that the client and the contact person have disappeared to start their holiday. Unfortunately, this is no isolated instance, but rather something that happens again and again. The decent thing would be to inform others when deadlines are changed. Again, irritatingly, not exactly the norm.

Whine 5: A simple thank you

It can really get under our skin when we've delivered work that was less than a spot landing. The critical feedback also moves faster than you think. And it also hurts because in addition to the blood and sweat that went into the work, a few hours of free time were probably sacrificed as well. But we have to deal with criticism of our work professionally, even if you don't always agree with your clients. In return, we need some praise and positive feedback.

We're always delighted when a client simply thanks us for the work that the agency does for him and his brand. No one expects gifts or fancy dinners in expensive restaurants. Even a personal e-mail or card can say thanks to the team in a special way. It costs nothing and is worth a lot. Unfortunately, such signs of gratitude and appreciation are not the norm.

So, enough whining. We love our job. The resulting variety from working for companies from a wide range of industries. The variety of channels we can play on. The new challenges we face together with our customers every day – Our job is exciting, inspiring and fulfilling. But it could be a bit better, if one also appreciates the value of what's done.

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Thomas Knauer Managing Partner

Kaulbachstr. 4
80539 Munich
T: +49 (0)89 599958-80
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