Every client and every research agency in the insights industry wish to have a good working relationship and work in partnership to create the best research experience possible. Ultimately, there are many positive impacts attributed to a good working relationship, but they can be condensed down into three key results: a more cohesive and enjoyable research experience overall, better insights for the effort and resources put in by all parties, and an open line of communication for more research in the future. But how can this be achieved?
There are significant consequences for both insight teams and client stakeholders when the client-agency relationship crumbles. On the research end, we understand that a good working relationship can aid clients who need help to meet their objectives and achieve their goals within specific time scales, but also that an agency is judged on its success to work to facilitate this to the satisfaction of the client.
If successful, the partnership can lead to agile, communicative working, ensuring high efficiencies and excellent deliverables for the client and further leads and recognition for the agency. But, if the relationship becomes strained then clients could waste funds with objectives and goals not being met and agencies could lose repeat business with reputations being impacted. So how can both parties work together to be more of a team and gain success?
|The benefits of a good client-agency relationship boil down to three results: an enjoyable research experience, excellent insights and ROI, and better future prospects.|
1. Open Communication from the Start
Firstly, the key is to have open lines of communication and honesty from day one, from pitching, briefing and during the initial set up all the way through to reporting and presenting; agencies should be clear about what they can deliver with realistic timescales and clients need to set out clear expectations and the preferred way of working. Clients and agencies are there to help each other, and the success of both teams are dependent on each other.
2. Balancing Client and Agency Expertise and Objectives
The agency should understand the client’s business and any specific objectives, needs and constraints as well as understanding how requests will be made, any preferred methodologies, the amount of interaction expected and how analysis and reporting will be delivered and the client should trust the agency expertise and recommendations. It is a good idea to ensure a clear insight framework is developed at the start of the relationship to establish these boundaries and ensure the working relationship is clear to both sides.
3. Review and Realign at Regular Intervals
It is important to review regularly. Ensure agreements with clear Key Performance Indicators are in place and meeting dates are set to review performance against the KPIs and update if required on a regular basis, every quarter works well. Most significantly, ensure both sides understand each KPI; what is being measured and why. Each indicator should be realistic and achievable.
In addition to quarterly review, a stakeholder annual review is beneficial. This often naturally arises with contract renewals but it is also important to ensure both sides re-align and understand each other’s objectives and current framework to be able to work together in partnership for any following year.
4. Honesty from Start to Finish
Honesty is key and agency teams should always report back any findings truthfully to build a trusting relationship and clients should also provide equally honest feedback to the agency. Constructive criticism shouldn’t be seen as a sign of relationship breakdown, but as a sign to learn and develop together.
It is also equally important for an agency to be honest about their in-house expertise and if further expertise or training is required to gain this, rather than deliver a bad job from anyone untrained. The client’s trust in the agency’s ability is also important; the client knows their business better than the agency and sharing confidential information and allowing the agency access to speak with key personnel can help develop the agency’s understanding and ultimately lead to a greater trust in any insight work.
5. Encouraging Collaboration
Challenge each other and be respectful; a good relationship relies on trust a collaboration and mutual respect for each other’s ideas and approaches, therefore those relationships where individuals challenge each other or provide constructive criticism often learn and develop quicker resulting in robust research. Clients and agencies should also respect each other’s businesses, each has demands and pressures and having an understanding of these ensures a better relationship.
6. Overcome Obstacles Together
Good relationships meet regularly, and promptly if there is an issue. Relationships work better if small queries are ironed out quickly, before building into a larger issue, therefore it is important for agencies and clients to respond quickly to each other and meet regularly to ensure everyone is on track and happy. Seeing each other, either online or in person also breaks down barriers and makes for a friendlier approach by both sides, helping to build the collaboration and relationship.
|FlexMR's Client Success Manager, Dr Katharine Johnson, works to build up brilliant client-agency relationships between FlexMR and all of their clients, and here are the signs she looks out for most.|
7. Don’t be Afraid to Push Boundaries
Relationships that are working well and have high levels of trust are often those which are more creative, willing to push the boundaries and try a new approach. Sometimes this pays off and other times it will be a big learning curve, but having a good relationship will allow both sides to be opportunistic and try new, hopefully better, methodologies or advancements.
8. Relationships Should Evolve Over Time
The best relationships aren’t afraid of change; people change, organisations evolve and technology develops so it is important that agencies and clients communicate and work with each other during any change; often this evolvement enhances the trust and reliance on each other.
9. Connect on a Deeper Level than Client and Supplier
Treat each other as colleagues in the same office and enjoy working together. It may not always be easy and you may have differing opinions but any good relationship will allow for much learning and will be insightful and beneficial to both sides. Meeting face-to-face, either online, or even better in person, helps to build the relationship. Joining together at conferences, presenting with join case studies or even writing articles and papers together helps both sides understand each other and cements the working relationship.