What "Client Service" Really Means is the title of a recent post by David Burn on the blog AdPulp. Burn recounts the remarks from a speech given by David Wieden of Wieden + Kennedy about the importance of the work coming first - before the client relationship. Wieden said:
"In big agencies, the client/agency relationship is the most sacred thing. The difficulty seems to be that the work then serves the relationship, and everything becomes political. And when things get political, the work suffers. And when the work suffers, the business suffers, then the client agency relationship suffers, and you suffer.
"And when we say the client/agency relationship is second to the work, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Because the work is a direct reflection of the quality of that relationship. If it is strained, the work shows it. If people are having fun, it shows. If people are bleeding, it shows. If people are just trying to turn other people on, it shows."
This line of thinking squares with what Roger Fisher and William Ury describe in their book Getting To Yes - Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. They note: "Every negotiator has two kinds of interests: In the substance and in the relationship." Often times, the closer the relationship, the more that parties are likely to compromise, which can often lead to results that are not completely satisfying to either side.
Wieden says putting the work first is the only practical solution. Is he right? Or is there another way?