PUTTING THE CLIENT AT THE CENTRE STAGE
When an actor, a musician, or a presenter walks up on stage, they tend to perform at their best when they can feel the positive energy from the audience. They are also accompanied by an entire support system whose sole purpose is to make sure they shine in their moment of truth. This support staff ranges from the Costume Designer, to the Choreographer, Set Designer, Lighting Crew, Assistant Director, Program Coordinator, and the list goes on. Rather it be through acting, singing, dancing or simply just juggling. For the performer to do what they do best, which is tell their story in the most beautiful and compelling way possible. It requires several different departments to work in perfect symbioses, aligned to one single purpose. Bringing the story to life. Whatever that story may be.
So, how does this relate to a creative agency trying to produce content for their valued clients? Well, putting the client at the centre stage should mean much more than just supporting them by producing the next video, graphic design, custom music track, or campaign. When I am asked “what do the words client-centricity mean to me”? The answer might come as a surprise, when I say that it doesn’t have much to do with the client. But rather, aligning your agency’s efforts to ensure the client’s journey is both seamless and memorable. This will ultimately translate to a richer experience, from initial client contact all the way through seeing their story come to life. Therefore, the question that needs to be asked is how or what is the best way to focus your internal structure to support a more client-centric approach.
An acronym I’ve developed over the years is S.T.O.P. Which means taking a step back to allow your organization to evaluate, assess, and build the proper Systems, Tools and Operational Processes. What does this have to do with putting the client at the centre stage? It has everything to do with ensuring we deliver the highest quality of products or services to our clients, while guaranteeing the journey is both simple and predictable. This means ensuring your internal structure is designed in a way that allows creativity to shine through while your production team has all the tools and support necessary to bring a story to life. For obvious reasons, the structure will vary between agencies depending on the type of creative activity your company is engaged in. However, the common denominator should be that whichever internal system or structure is put in place, the client always needs to be at the centre of the decisions you take. This, in my humble opinion, is what a client centric approach is all about. It becomes more so important to self-reflect into your current internal structure and assess the “nice to haves” versus “the must haves”. This also means being able to build a structure strong enough to yield a high level of quality while being flexible and nimble. Just like performers on stage, there are differences between every client. Therefore, your structure needs to be designed to cater to these differences. In a nutshell, your company must be built to adapt to the plethora of diverse requests that will come your way. Only then can your attention be focused on the client journey.
Here's a simple definition of the client journey: The client journey is the complete sum of experiences that the client goes through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the client journey should encompass the full experience of being a client. One way to focus on the total client experience is to look beyond the narrow definition of the creative services you’re offering and consider the client’s total experience. The more broadly you define the client experience the more opportunities you can identify for improving your internal structure. Say, for example, your focus is graphic design. You could focus narrowly on the types layout techniques you use, to typography, and pictures to meet specific client needs. But you’ll find many more opportunities for innovation if you think about the arc of the client experience. In something as simple as designing a logo, there are probably a dozen steps (each one of which is a chance to innovate): from getting clients to realize that it’s time to rebrand, to helping them redefine their mission values and vision, to making use of analytics and measuring the impact of a specific design on different seasonal campaigns.
Tommy Lasorda, a famous Major League Baseball legend who managed the Los Angeles Dodgers for several years once said, “plan your work and work your plan”. A journey map helps you think systematically through the steps your clients need to take when they interact with your agency. Building a client-centric approach takes time to self-reflect, get the pieces of the puzzle right and pull the right levers internally to ensure the client experience is at the top of the priority list. Go ahead, be our guest and take the centre stage.