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Strengthening In-House Agencies: Account Management Might Make All The Difference In The World
Creative Service leaders are constantly challenged with building the capability of in-house teams to compete with external agencies, in addition to balancing delivery. Building capacity alone is a challenge with the trends in technology, platforms and design, adding delivery to it can be daunting, if you aren’t set up as an agency. Delivery is just as important, if not more important, as creative talent in competing with external agencies for high-impact projects. The stigma that sometimes comes with being an in-house creative team is often tied to the lack of engagement, sense of urgency and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). As a leader of a creative shared services organization, you know better than anyone the challenges of servicing internal departments while competing with freelancers, other ancillary internal groups and external agencies. Many times, you’ve lost the battle for work before you’ve started because of the stigma that comes with being an “internal creative services team”.
Here are 4 things that you can do to strengthen service delivery for your in-house agency:
1.Hire or develop the Account Management function. Having a client facing, project and resource slinging ninja at your disposal in the form of an account manager, might make all the difference in your in-house creative studio. For internal teams, account management is usually shared between the leader and the many creatives that interact with clients on various deliverables. There is a reason that agencies have this function and it could be the reason your clients prefer working with agencies. The account management function is a critical role within creative agencies and sometimes internal teams that manages client communications from intake to post-delivery service. This function is the trusted adviser and go-to that works with the client and creative teams to execute on campaigns. This person is also very client focused, anticipates challenges and OVER communicates with clients to ensure their expectations are met.
2. Exemplary service is non-negotiable, accountability is rare. The biggest complaint of surveyed internal clients for shared service or support organizations is customer service. Often in internal settings, the client doesn’t have the option they do with agencies and can’t fire the internal team. So how do you create a sense or ownership and urgency with your internal clients? Through accountability. Not only is it important to WOW your customers and ensure you are driving a focused sense of urgency for their projects, you also must be accountable and own your mistakes, service issues and organizational deficiencies. By building and aligning your teams to the SLAs you create for your in-house agency is key. Work with your HR partners to ensure alignment and incentives for each role in creative services are tied to your SLAs!
3. Turn up the heat on your engagement. You can be the trusted adviser and confidant for your clients, so step up and be remarkable. From the early engagement during the creative briefings to the kit-glove feedback sessions, you have the power to be knowledgeable, a fantastic communicator and leader of process as well as the ability to architect a solution for your client that exceeds their expectations. Drive efficiency and clarity in all your meetings with the client, respect their time, keep meetings brief and on task and clarify expectations every step of the way. Your engagement alone, can change and evangelize your client.
4. Be the constant. In addition to ensuring the team is engaged, it comes down to delivery. Over deliver. Every time. There is never a substitute, for over delivering. Get it done, no matter the cost to you, exceed the client’s expectation always, and you will have a partner and a champion for your organization.
You can strengthen your in-house agency and break the shared services stigma with your willingness to drive change. If you’d like to discuss this article or ideas specific to your organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author, Eliana Hassen is a strategist and marketing tsar who has spent over 20 years working with Fortune 500 brands and their creative service organizations (and video teams) on optimization, execution and performance.