The single greatest fear I have with the agencies and freelancers that I work with is that they’ll leave.
Of the many companies I’ve worked with over the years I think I could name every single person who worked on my projects but I doubt I could name every agency. These were people I worked with day-in day-out for years and when they went it was hard to build up that same bond with their successors.
Sadly agencies often don’t make this easy for themselves.
Although every client would love to work with the same person all the time it’s not always possible. People leave agencies (often within short time frames) and freelancers can get so big that they have to take on more staff. Agencies may also take on larger clients and have to reallocate resources, which means your superstar account manager gets drawn away to shiner accounts.
So how can agencies and freelancers help to minimise that risk?
The most critical element is ensuring that contingency plans are in place for every employee and that all interactions are tracked. No one wants to live in a nanny state but tracking employee emails and phone calls in a CRM can be incredibly useful if someone else has to take over an account. Even if this is just a case of employees logging a few notes after every call, it makes a big difference to their successor.
It’s also a good idea to involve other employees in client projects pre-emptively. Show the client that the agency is far more than just the person they speak with. Invite other employees in to meetings and teleconferences to show a wider face to the agency. Some clients will want one primary contact for their day-to-day comms which is fine, but there’s no reason you can’t show a wider set of employees in other forms of communication.
When it does come time for the employee to leave then give your client as much notice as possible. I’ve had several occasions where I’ve been told an agency employee is leaving on their last day (or after they’ve gone) and every single time it left a bad taste. Whilst I appreciate there may be a fear the client will leave if given too much notice, there’s also the more real risk that they’ll leave because they feel like they’ve been given no notice and messed around.
Personally, I always prefer to be given as much notice as possible. The agencies I respect are those who have told me early when someone was leaving and introduced me to their successor at the same time. It gives me chance to speak to the successor and make sure I’ve asked the employee who is leaving any questions I need answered.
It also means that I can see a clear handover has occurred between the two, without having to worry that I’ll have to waste months getting the new account manager up to speed. Anything that helps reduce friction will go a long way in keeping that trust going.
Ultimately, you need to shift the way your contacts view your agency so they feel like they’re working with a group and not an individual. Then, and only then, will you remove one of their biggest fears.
This is just one of the insights from my “What Client Want” course.