Client-agency relationships could be improved if both sides were more ready to ask questions, take risks and challenge the status quo, new research suggests.
An analysis of the global database of relationship management company Aprais (more than 23,000 client-agency interactions spanning 20 years) found that the best-performing client-agency relationships are defined by high scores on attributes including Challenge, Communication and Trust; among the lowest-scoring agencies and clients, all characteristics score poorly but Challenge most notably lags behind.
What to do
The figures show that a bi-annual process of two-way evaluations can improve relationships, and that scores increase with each evaluation as key learnings are identified and action taken.
Performance of both agencies and clients improves with consistent evaluation, with low performers improving 10% in the first 2 years
For agencies evaluated 5-9 times, scores for creative client-agency teams improve by 24% for the agency and 20% for the client.
This pattern also appears when examining scores for media and digital.
What NOT to do
Avoid using a standard evaluation methodology as part of the Supplier Relationship Management process – this encourages a supplier mentality rather than a partnership.
Don’t link agency fees to the outcome of the evaluation. Money should not take precedence over improving the relationship between client and agency.
Don’t evaluate just the agency – that ignores the input of the client which can impact performance (for example, poor briefing will lead to poorer quality work).
Avoid annual or ad-hoc evaluations. Six-monthly evaluations appear to optimise the opportunities for consistent improvement.
Don’t use internal evaluations with performance assessed over time. The use of external benchmarks provides context for different scopes of work and allows for comparison with similar relationships.