Agencies must improve their CX or face extinction

The only way agencies can win is if they evolve the customer experience.

Accenture’s recent acquisition of Droga5 had the agency world on their toes. Is this what will become of our industry? The answer is yes. Why? Because consulting firms can outspend and out-service any one of us.

Creating an extraordinary CX is as important as producing groundbreaking creative and strategy. In fact, 82 percent of consumers are likely to leave your brand because of service – not product or pricing. Shocking right?

So what drives customer loyalty and business growth? A consistent, memorable experience. Forrester reports experience-driven businesses grew revenue 1.4x faster and increased customer lifetime value 1.6x more than other companies in the prior year. Today, a great CX is more critical than ever with the rise of a new class of agency competitors offering top-down solutions that go deeper than anything before. From management coaching to mobile banners, agencies are getting pinched.  

We know the professional services industry is known for delivering a strong CX. What does this mean for marketing agencies? Three things in particular stand out, making the threat of extinction real. (But there’s good news – they’re all attainable, and many are already underway.)

1. Collaborate feverishly. Research of professional services firms reveals that when practice areas collaborate to serve clients, they increase revenue. And MIT research into customer satisfaction at one of the top global professional services firms concludes that responsive and direct communications, and stable leadership patterns, result in high-revenue increases.  

2. Nurture from the top down. Individuals in the professional services industry cultivate the right relationships at the top – those with direct access to the C-Suite – which now often includes the CMO/CXO/CTO. In fact, a disproportionate number of Fortune 500 CEOs are also ex-consultants (McKinsey takes top honors).

3. Turn value into attachment. Consultants are great at building relationships that add value. Seems obvious, but take Deloitte’s Next Generation CMO Academy for example. They understand the vast expertise a CMO must hold to be successful. To better prepare these candidates, they host a day full of learning, growth and development for the next generation of marketing leaders. That’s a lot of value – for everyone.

Avoid becoming obsolete

As advertising and marketing professionals, we need to evolve and adopt better client service experiences in order to compete with the big consultancies. It’s only a matter of time before they completely infringe on agency territory, evidenced by their growing acquisitions. In 2017, Accenture, Deloitte, IBM, KPMG and McKinsey spent more than $1.2bn in acquiring marcomms agencies.

Yes, this means collaborating feverishly with clients. It also means doing even more. Agencies need to focus on delivering an effortless CX. One that creates value – by becoming an extension of their clients, working tirelessly to ensure the experience delivered is holistic across all touchpoints. While it should start with account teams delivering proactive, perceptive and value-driven experiences, this is now the job of the entire agency. Some examples include conducting trend-watching workshops, and holding on-demand strategy and ideation sessions.

Secondly, agencies need to do more than monitor and nurture the strength of client relationships. Across all levels of the organization, from the top down, we need to identify and address gaps and sticky points as well as design and deliver value for C-level parties. How? By offering tailored products and experiences specifically for them.

Lastly, agencies need to ensure the value we’re providing translates into attachment. Build 1:1 relationships with clients, both as a brand and as individual people. Because how else can we understand a client’s unique goals and make an impact? From hosting peer-to-peer training and networking experiences, to participating in co-speaking opportunities with clients – we need to establish worthwhile attachments with our clients. Forrester echoes this point by saying you aren’t just selling to a business, you are selling to a person… who just happens to work at a business. 

Commit to a long-lasting healthy client-agency experience

Client-agency relationships are complex. But improving the overall client experience – versus singularly focusing on the deliverable – is critical to our industry’s future. We need to make client service a competitive differentiator or we’ll all be losing business to the consultants.

With experience-driven businesses growing revenue and increasing the customer lifetime value, coupled with Experience Brands delivering 200% higher Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and 25% higher customer loyalty, the trend speaks for itself:  Experience wins.  

After all, organizations that lead in CX outperform laggards on the S&P by 80 percent. Isn’t that evidence enough?

Craig Millon is chief client officer of Jack Morton.

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