Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What Client Service Really Means - Part 2

In yesterday's post What Client Service Really Means, I highlighted a post from AdPulp about David Wieden's speech that advocated placing the work over the client relationship.

Wieden makes a practical point here, but I wonder if we're talking about valuing the work over the client relationship or challenging the client and the agency to keep the work separate from the relationship.

Selling new work to a client is a negotiation; Roger Fisher and William Ury, authors of Getting To Yes - Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In say:

"Dealing with a substantive problem (the work) and a maintaining good working relationship need not be conflicting goals if the parties are committed and psychologically prepared to treat each separately on its own legitimate merits. Base the relationship on accurate perceptions, clear communication, appropriate emotions, and a forward-looking, purposive outlook. Deal with people problems directly; don't try to solve them with substantive concessions."

Assuming you've chosen your clients well, I believe this is the stronger way to look at it. A commenter yesterday remarked that a good relationship involves the client trusting the agency. I would only add that a great relationship is when they trust each other. Clients who believe you place them or the relationship second are often the same clients who accuse agencies of not listening and being arrogant.

I would advocate keeping the relationship separate from the work, but not second to it. What do you say?


  1. Leo, that's interesting. But it's difficult to understand. Seems the relationship is the work, and good work fosters a long-lasting relationship. I say this in light of my professional situation. While I manage communication for three financial companies, I don't feel like there's much of a relationship. I advocate for good work, but the CEO doesn't see such work important.

    Although I'm thankful for the pay checks he signs, I've feeling more like a trophy.

    How does that relationship work?

  2. The work is simply a byproduct of the relationship, hopefully one built on mutual trust and honest engagement. They're not one in the same. If one compromises the work under the guise of preserving the relationship, it typically results in bad work and a marginalized relationship. If one imposes work on another too aggressively, it breaches trust, and over time the relationship is doomed regardless of the business results.

  3. Leo, I'm still not sure I agree.

    "The work is simply a byproduct of the relationship, hopefully one built on mutual trust and honest engagement."

    Work is not a byproduct of the relationship, it is the reason for the relationship. Without the work, their is no relationship. To me, if anything, the relationship is a tool used to acheive a goal, which is...good work.

  4. John, the work may be the reason for the relationship, but that doesn't make the work and the relationship one in the same. This is where I think Fisher & Ury have it right. That said, I understand Wieden's point, and it's a valid one and worthy of exploration. Thanks for helping us dig in a bit!



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