Keys to Driving Client-Agency Collaboration

Over the years, I’ve heard many people say that they made a “good change” to a program. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m going to make a bad change.”

Everyone makes recommendations with the intent of making things better. The problem is that it can be hard to tell whether our recommendations will have a positive or negative impact until we look at end results. What we can do, however, is open the lines of communication to minimize uncertainty.

One of the key parts of my job is working with clients to implement and optimize programs based on actual outcomes. This is facilitated when clients treat our relationship as a partnership—strongly valuing collaboration and open communication.

The client-agency partnership isn’t an equal one. The final decision on everything rests—rightly—with the client. But the partnership is equal in some respects—such as in the sharing of data throughout the sales funnel. This allows us to see where our programs are working best and where we need to make changes.

For example: What are the response rates? Which products sell the most? Which are the most profitable? Energy spent in the wrong area is wasted. And without knowing the impact of marketing on the full sales funnel, product portfolio, etc., we could be spending our resources in the wrong places. A full understanding of resources and goals is key from the outset.

Having formerly been on the client side of the marketing world, I understand the potential reticence to share budgets with agencies. Sometimes it feels better to let the other guy (i.e., the agency) give a number first. But in my experience, this only leads to confusion and a loss of time and effort.

Marketing goals and objectives help point to the client’s destination. The budget helps define how we get the client there. We could travel by rickshaw, Lamborghini, or—most likely—by means of something in between. It’s usually a matter of finding a very reliable sedan to get the job done. Knowing the budget range from the start allows us to pick the right vehicle a lot faster. Then we can use the extra time and resources to fine-tune it.

Whether we are starting a job or reviewing the results for optimization, a strong collaborative partnership between client and agency makes everything more efficient. We learn from each other and gain a deeper understanding of how we can succeed in the changing marketplace. In the end, it helps us all make more “good changes.”

Retail CX… The good, the bad, and the ugly

A recent American Express Customer Survey revealed that 74% of customers spend more with a company because of a positive customer service experience. The survey also disclosed that 60% of customers bail on a transaction due to bad service.

Companies that wait any longer to improve their Customer Experience (CX) will lose to competition, forever. Nearly 40 % of customers immediately consider switching after the initial poor customer service experience, according to current statistics published by SAP Hybris, a global CX Solutions leader.

Here are recent personal examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly in CX for Retail.

The Good: My wife and I were experiencing back, hip, and shoulder pain from sleeping on an extra-firm mattress and decided to research solutions online. Instead of investing in a new mattress, we discovered a mattress topper could solve the problem. We opted for a latex topper because research stated that memory foam retains heat, smells bad, and is not comfortable while rolling around; where as latex stays cool, has no odor, and is comfortable when rolling around. While searching for latex mattress topper suppliers we found one with 253 high reviews, called their 800 number, asked our questions, and received perfect advice. Within four days, our $300 purchase was delivered to our home and we were sleeping soundly, waking up refreshed and pain free. I’ve since received six inquiries via email from other potential buyers and happily answered all questions. I’ve become an advocate for this brand because of the excellent CX.

The Bad: Shopping at a national clothing retailer we found jeans we wanted to buy. Prior to checking out we searched the company website and found the same pair for $10 less along with discount codes for free shipping and additional 15% off. Disappointed they would not honor the lower price in-store we decided to not overpay and order online from home. The next day we went to order online and found, 1) the codes were no longer available for free shipping and an extra 15% off, and 2) the size we needed was now out of stock. Ugh! Still not willing to overpay $10, we purchased the jeans online in a color and size we did not want, then exchanged them at the store for what we needed in the first place. Recommended solution: Integrate in-store and online businesses. Empower your in-store team while interacting face-to-face to do what’s best for your customers.

The Ugly: We needed tropical fish and coral for our saltwater aquarium. A knowledgeable sales associate at the local pet store guided us through our decisions and we ended up spending double what we initially intended. Checkout was positive. We felt excited about our purchases and happy with our shopping experience. Then corporate marketing messed up. Within minutes of leaving the store, I was bombarded via email with not 1, 2, 3, or 4, but 5 coupons. Some of these coupons already had expired or were going to expire within the week. When they followed this flurry with a $5 reward e-coupon, my immediate thought was, “I just overpaid by $5!” A week later, the company sent a survey asking, “How’d we do?” When I clicked on the link, the survey malfunctioned before I answered any questions. I clicked on the link again and received a message, “You’ve already completed this survey.” This national pet retailer went from good to ugly, through no fault of the in-store associates, but rather through corporate marketing’s misguided strategy and tactics. Recommendations: Use analytics to gain insight into your customer’s buying patterns, including purchase categories, frequency, and transaction amount. Send offers relevant to each individual. Invest in technology allowing in-store team to apply “loyalty rewards” instantly at purchase rather than try driving customers back next week for another purchase they don’t need. Stop multi-coupon hustling immediately after purchase. Get your survey system to work. Improve your understanding of consumer psychology and what drives human behavior in 2016.

Examples like these can prompt us to look for ways to enhance processes and communications in our own business, which lead to increased sales and improved customer retention through ideal CX.

I was surprised to read in the CMO Council’s 2014 survey, “Mastering Adaptive Customer Engagement,” that only 52% of marketing executives agree that a combination of people, processes, and platforms all are needed to properly develop, manage, measure, and deliver good customer experiences. What are the other 48% of marketing executives thinking who are not aligned with this approach?

Interested in learning how Martino Flynn could help improve CX for your organization? Contact Joe Dahlkemper, Director of Marketing & Sales Strategy, at

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