Dear Client: We Can Handle the Truth
Inherently, no one wants to be the bearer of bad news or inform someone they’ve missed the mark. Especially when you know how hard people have worked at something.
Yet, even though it can be difficult to confront or be critical, people really need to hear the truth in order to correct the situation. That’s how I feel about clients sharing feedback. To be clear, not every day is a day for this kind of feedback. For the most part, things go well. We know that and you do too, but every once in a while, constructive feedback is par for the course.
That said, there needs to be more frankness and transparency in our industry. Otherwise, clients will find it more difficult to get what they want. Therefore, I am calling on all clients to give it to us straight. We can handle it, and your feedback will help us develop our talent, improve our skills and up-level our agency. It’s why we ask for your feedback: To help us be better for you.
I’ve been having feedback conversations with clients for years. (And our firm regularly solicits client evaluations.) Whether the situation is a new business pitch or a current client receiving a new idea or commenting on the work product, more often than not prospect and client responses lack directness and actionable feedback. It’s often vague and without specification that can lead to improvement. As a result, it’s led me to get more specific and ask direct, probing questions. While sometimes that is a solution, it’s too often not.
The fact is, client organizations are heavily invested in their agencies. Agency teams want to do their best work. If you are not giving candid feedback about the team and the work, you are never going to get the quality you desire. You’ll benefit if you level and tell the agency where they could improve so they can fix it. Without knowing how our clients feel, we are not going to know how to be the best partner.
My father always told me to be honest and transparent. I took that advice seriously, perhaps to a fault, where often my honesty tends to surprise people. Some will say they appreciate Denise because of her directness. We know how she feels, and we know what we are going to get. However, on the flip side, in an industry where we are cautious to tell people like it is, that level of honesty can come across as unusual. So I understand when you are uncomfortable sharing hard feedback, but we need it. I give it, and you can too. No one is going to be insulted. We are all going to benefit. What I deeply love about my agency, is we are always seeking client feedback. It’s part of our DNA. Our culture is one that thrives on being our best possible self so we always look for ways to improve – even though we are already pretty damn good.
For agency folks reading this, please allow me to give you the classic example. You go on a new business pitch. You think you’ve nailed it. The prospect is complimenting everything in the pitch. Then you get the call and you did not win the business. Would you rather hear you guys were great, but another agency really connected with the client, or would you rather hear your team was “meh,”or the ideas fell short in demonstrating how they would motivate the target consumer, or you did not have enough research to support your ideas? That’s what I thought. You want the truth. You’ll do better the next time.
This is a plea to all clients. Please do us all a favor and tell us like it is!