Iliyana's Blog

The 3 Pillars of Customer Delight for Agencies (And Not Only)

[fa icon="calendar"] 14-Mar-2017 09:30:00 / by Iliyana Stareva

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Did you know that it's five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one? 

On top of that, improving customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%. 

If you ask me, these are numbers that I certainly wouldn't ignore. 

Unfortunately, far too many companies focus almost exclusively on net new sales and customer service remains just there as a given. 

I see this with my agency partners at HubSpot all the time. 

Of course, money in is important. You need that to keep the business running but if you want to scale an agency, sales and services need to be on the same level. Keeping your customers happy is priority number one too because that's how you ensure you have a sustainable revenue flow coming in all the time. You renew your agency-client retainers year after year because you continue to provide value.

So how do you do keep your customer happy?  

With a simple framework that I call the three pillars of customer delight. 

The Three Pillars of Customer Delight: 

1. Superior Service

There are three things that fall under superior service: 

  • results
  • quality 
  • reporting 

The number one thing you need to do is to truly walk the talk. You need to deliver what you promise. You need to achieve the results you and the client have agreed on and masterfully alleviate challenges along the way (for example, the client not meeting their deadlines that stalls your work). And you need to deliver quality work. Without quality, you won't get the results. 

But you can't expect that the customer will see through everything you've done and will be just as proactive as you are. You need to shout your successes and you need to do it in front of the right people, meaning the C-level, the decision-makers who sign off on the budget. 

You regularly need to have money conversations with your clients and don't be afraid of them. You need to speak about the results you've achieved and always tie them back to what you've promised in the beginning of the engagement, to why the client bought and to how you are hitting the goals agreed upon and how they are affecting the bottom line. 

ROI reporting needs to be included in every stakeholder conversation to constantly show the real (monetary) value that the client is getting out of this agency engagement. Value is what builds trust and trust is what turns an agency-client relationship into a true partnership where the client values the agency just as much as their internal people because they can clearly see how much they're getting out of this and how much more they can continue getting.

It's those regular value conversations that build up on each other so that when you come to renewal, the client is more than happy to stay with you and ideally when you present them the options for more services, they won't see just a cost but an investment because they realise the potential. You've educated them on how much you do for them. Otherwise, they'll only see money out not money in. 

2. Customer Relations

With customer relations, the focus lies on the following three pieces:

  • friendliness 
  • professionalism 
  • true interest

In the middle of all of this is personality or the chemistry you have with your clients. 

Your tone of voice when in meetings or on email needs to be friendly but also professional. This builds a much nicer relationship that's not dry and off-putting. Your customers actually want to speak with you because you're cool and you show up to be more than just a service delivery person that only wants to tick a box.

Your professionalism comes through well-defined processes to work with clients, for example, clear account management structure and onboarding process with defined calls and meetings that each has an agenda and a goal to be met as well as includes appropriate communication for preparation beforehand and follow-up info with responsibilities. This shows that you know what you are doing. 

Through each contact, your agency people should be showing true interest because clients are people too. They have struggles and problems, they have feelings and emotions because they're human. You need to recognise this and not always be business only. 

There's a lot that agencies can do to improve the relationship and to surprise their clients, for example, little things like remembering the main POCs birthday and congratulating them the next year (of course, remembering comes with using the tools to remind you - project management, calendar, notes in Sales etc.). Small gestures can make a big impact.

3. Expertise

Expertise shows through three things:

  • deep knowledge
  • new ideas and trendsetting 
  • needs identification and upselling 

Clients buy your agency services because they expect that you know it all. They expect that you definitely have better skills than them in the respective area. They expect that you know them and their industry inside out. 

That knowledge on your side comes with learning and digging deep into the topics of your service areas as well as communicating this clearly to the outside world with your own content on your website and online channels as well as through every client interaction.  

With clear positioning externally, clients will know that you are capable of delivering what you are promising and will trust your expertise. 

With clear positioning internally, your people become confident at what they do. That confidence, in turn, gives them the ability to say "no" when clients come with requests that either don't relate to the goals or objectives that you currently have or that are not included in your retainer. This way, you'll stop losing money on delivering things you shouldn't be (believe me, this is almost a daily conversation for me with my agency clients). 

When regularly staying up-to-day with all tech and marketing developments, you become a trendsetter who knows how to 1) educate clients to learn more and be better (e.g. through client universities, videos, blog posts etc.) and 2) identify needs the client doesn't even know they have which in turn allows you to upsell but only what the client would truly benefit from to bring them forward at the right time. The latter comes down to communication and regular ROI reporting to the right people - the C-level as the ones who care about the $ value and have decision-making power. 

Essentially, agencies need to become thought leaders not just for leads but clients too. 

As you can see, adding value comes through finding new ways to innovate, overachieve and keep clients happy through superior service as well as small gestures but none of this would work if you don't communicate well with the multiple stakeholders at the client.

Ideally, you'll turn this into a delight programme with a clearly defined process that your agency employees can follow. 

Such a programme will allow you to be relevant after years and years of service.

By following the three pillars of customer delight, you not only keep customers but you also continue to grow by expanding your services because you've taught your account managers to sell. 


Do you have a delight programme? 


Topics: Brands and Business, Agencies

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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