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Why client servicing execs are more than just suits

Dzila Dik, Grey Dubai

Opinion

Why client servicing execs are more than just suits

By Dzila Dik, client servicing director, Grey Dubai

No, this is not about the American legal drama TV series Suits. It’s about the term given to client-servicing professionals at creative agencies. Even though this is a nickname commonly used in our industry, for some reason, every time I hear it, I cringe. You know that feeling when you’re happily walking through a lush garden, watching the birds fly from one tree to the other, totally enjoying life, and then suddenly, a pungent smell of rotten trash hits your nostrils and you feel like life just ended, then and there? That’s what it feels like.

I wonder why the word ‘suits’. Obviously, it came from the old days when client-servicing professionals wore a more formal dress code. It could have been ‘neckties’, ‘heels’ or ‘make-up’ or ‘notebooks’ or even ‘business cards’, but the winner of all bad labels had to be ‘suits’. The thing is, we don’t even wear suits anymore. We follow a smart dress code, such as decent-looking shirts, trousers or skirts, but I can’t remember the last time anyone in my team, or I, wore a suit. So it might be time for an upgrade for that dated label. And even if there are people in client-servicing teams across different markets that still wear suits, I still think it’s time to let go of the name.

Here’s why: There are a few things that client-servicing professionals do, apart from impressing clients with the way we dress.

Though the perception is often that we are mere sales people, that we walk in with our shiny suits and classy leather briefcases, pull out our charmer flutes and hypnotize clients to sell them ideas, we actually start by building solid relationships with clients, so that they see us as partners and come to us when faced with business challenges. We live the brands we handle, so that we have a full understanding of the challenges to tackle and the opportunities to jump on. We ask all the right questions to fully comprehend the task at hand. We bring that knowledge to the agency. We brainstorm, we think, we question, we challenge, we research, we push back, we stand firm on what we believe in and we work extensively with planners and creatives to create some amazing work that not only helps brands grow, but also helps us win fame.

Not to forget that we also bring in the money after we tackle all of the witty negotiations that clients make us go through. Yes, believe it or not, we do all of that; we conduct the orchestra so that, together, we all play a beautiful tune. This is why I think being labeled ‘suits’ is a major understatement, to say the least.

Unfortunately, some don’t realize the importance of our role and undermine the work we do. Let’s think about it for a minute: an agency without client-servicing teams. It would be good to try that for a week and see what would happen. How would planners react to client briefs where the required information needs to be extracted through multiple sessions and various kinds of discussions and questions? How would creatives be able to push deadlines? How would finance teams estimate costs when clients refuse to disclose their budgets?

A wise man in a leading role once said: “Why do we need account handlers? Let’s fire them and replace them with planners instead.” Needless to say, he was rather clueless as to how his own agency operated and how beautifully and harmoniously his teams were working with account handlers. Two years after that comment, he was in a leading role no more.

Now, for those client-servicing professionals who don’t do the above, but serve as mere messengers and transporters of lousy briefs, I say: Go ahead, buy yourself a suit. Because you might as well wear something as dated as the job description you’re sticking to.

Break out of your rotten shells, my brethren and sistren, and start embracing the evolved role of a ‘brand leader’. I also call on all responsible people in this industry to not only change the way they refer to client-servicing people, but also understand the role we play.

I know that, for many, the word ‘suits’ is just an easy way of referring to us and I know they don’t mean anything negative. However, I would still kindly ask them to find another easy term, such as Agency Brand Leader (ABL) or Orchestra Conductor (OC), or perhaps even Creative Business Handlers (CBH).

Suits No More. Share your suggested short names at dzila.dik@grey.com

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