PR Agencies Should Not Have to “Return” to Client Service in a Down Economy

We’re excited and proud to welcome our two newest clients – Contactual and Litle & Co. We’re particularly proud of this announcement not only because it caps off another year of growth for us, but because Contactual’s CMO, Karen Leavitt, has returned to PerkettPR for the third time in her career. There is no better testament to our ability to deliver solid business ROI than when clients become repeat customers and continue to hire us as they move along to new companies over the years. Thank you, Karen!

While new client wins are certainly a reason to celebrate, the news also brings us back to a core value that should always be top-of-mind: client service. If we didn’t provide excellent client service we wouldn’t have repeat clients like Karen. I’ve read several articles over the last few months about the “return of client service” in a down economy. While I understand this mantra might be relevant (we can only hope) in consumer-facing businesses such as retail, travel & tourism or restaurants, it seems irrelevant for the PR industry.

If it takes a down economy for you to be treated right by your agency, then you are with the wrong agency. I know the situation – it’s part of what drove me to start PerkettPR over a decade ago: the economy booms, agencies get more incoming business calls than they can handle, they want as much revenue as possible and it drives them to take on new clients without having the proper account teams in place to deliver great client service. Staff is stretched too thin and as a result, service suffers.

In a down economy, when the client roster begins to shrink a bit, agencies are almost, by default, “right sized.” A smaller client roster can enable them to spend more time on each account and clients see an uptick in attention to detail, senior involvement and results. In addition, agencies can take a moment to reflect on what could be improved, what overall client health looks like and which services are delivering the best ROI – to the client and the agency.

So how is your agency relationship? What do you wish PR agencies would do better – now and in the future? Have you taken the time to assess if client service is consistent? Has your agency asked you how they can improve, or offered new ideas for what is certain to be a tumultuous year?

Agencies – use this time to focus on top-to-bottom client service improvements – and make them a part of your ongoing culture. Ask your clients if – and how – their priorities have changed for the year and how you can subsequently redirect communications efforts to ensure they meet their goals. Have you asked clients their assessment of the economy’s effect on their business? The industry? Are you helping them to focus on the most cost-effective campaigns, or have you been moving forward business-as-usual?

Excellent client service should be your staff’s number one priority at all times. If you’ve strayed from this focus in the past, take the necessary steps now to get back on track – and ensure such changes last well beyond the economic rebound.

  • http://melyt.wordpress.com Melanie Thompson

    While in many cases a downturned economy does “right size” account loads, it also prioritizes things for the client. Clients realize they don’t need hits nationwide. They just need hits locally. Or maybe they’ve been holding off jumping into social media and are now ready to take the plunge. When a client provides its list of what is important, it is easier for the PR team to prioritize its efforts as well.

    But yes, client service is key. It is what keeps clients coming back in the good economic times and bad.