At Ervin & Smith, we define success not only by delivering strategies and executions that get results but also by building strong and effective partnerships with our clients. That’s why we ditched the old-school “Client Services” department in favor of a Client Success team. And it’s why we’ve spent time and energy defining a unique three-part approach to successful client engagements:
- Accountability always
- High collaboration
- Deep relationships, centered on truth
This three-part approach yields exceptional work and also supports an account team that genuinely cares about our clients and their business success.
1. Accountability at All Levels
The number one thing we hear from clients about why their past agency relationships failed is misalignment: projects that veer off course because folks weren’t on the same page to begin with. Or worse, scopes of work that creep in the direction of the agency’s best interest instead of the clients’. We mitigate this challenge by establishing clear accountabilities at the onset of every engagement and staying in sync throughout the project life cycle. This alignment leads to clearer expectation-setting with clients, greater efficiency, more intentional collaboration and overall better work. Here are the basic tools that make it happen:
- Project plan. One of our most valuable tools is a detailed project plan that sets clear expectations and provides a high-level look at timing across a project or campaign lifetime. Internally, the project plan also defines which team member(s) contribute to each component, and which is held accountable for its completion and quality. While we customize the information we share to our clients’ level of need, they can trust that we’ve got the details covered every day.
- Project status. We make our clients’ jobs easier with a shared project status document and regular check-ins with a project manager. Our weekly or biweekly check-ins mean fewer emails for clients. We pack a lot into our short meetings to ensure everyone is delivering on project needs, reviews, next steps and more.
- All-agency status. Our leadership team facilitates a rigorous resourcing and project status review every Monday morning. We discuss every project in the agency and identify upcoming milestones to ensure clear expectations for our teams to deliver on-time and on-strategy work for our clients.
Ultimately, this commitment to transparency and accountability builds confidence both in internal relationships and in the client-agency relationship.
2. Collaborate To Elevate
Another key to outstanding results is true collaboration. From the very beginning of a project, Ervin & Smith teams establish a collaboration process where ideas can flow freely. Our tools and project flow allow each team member to use their specific role expertise and point of view of the client’s business to work together to get the job done. Our Client Success team keeps collaboration flowing in a couple of key ways:
- Tools that work. We seek out platforms that foster a collaborative environment for ourselves and for our clients. You may see us frequent our dedicated Slack channels for idea-sharing and collaborative discussion or feature a shared Miro board or Figma file during an interactive strategic workshop. Not only do these tools help us, but they also help demystify the creative process for our clients.
- Exceptional presentations. We believe that how we present the work is just as important as the work itself, and we pride ourselves on really, really good client presentations. To do this, we implemented a key element to our project process – the presentation practice. This step is done no matter the size of the project. It’s dedicated time to gain C-suite perspective from our executive team, practice how we’ll present, get feedback and polish our message, which always elevates the end result. It all comes back to our commitment to delivering exceptional work; the presentation itself is a major part of that.
3. Deep Client Relationships
Without trust, there is no relationship. And the best way to build trust is with truth. This means our clients can expect open and honest communication at every level of the partnership. It’s about telling clients what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear. We empower our team members to live this “seek the truth” ethos through several philosophies:
- Training and development. Most Client Success team members have the title of project manager or project lead, but their expertise really lies in relationship management. Professional training and development help our team build empathy and understanding for many different personality types as well as hone skills in navigating relationships and candid conversations.
- Client viewpoint. Our connection with our client partners is so deep that our internal teams often say it feels like the client is right there with them at internal reviews. When a client knows that their agency genuinely cares about their success — and the agency builds that into its workflow — it changes the entire dynamic. That’s why it’s a requirement of our team to get to know all aspects of our clients’ businesses and also the individual pet peeves and preferences of the clients themselves.
- People who give a damn. It’s not complicated — we are a team of high achievers who genuinely love what we do and who we serve. You can see it in our personality profiles — Relator is a common StrengthsFinder result, and our team is full of red in the Emergenetics personality profile, meaning we’re highly empathetic connectors who are team-oriented and intuitive about people. Basically, we’re people people!
Why Client Success is Successful
Our client success philosophy has stood the test of time (E&S turned 40 this year!). Focusing on accountability, high collaboration and deep relationships means our clients can rely on us not only for getting results but also for having a little fun along the way. It’s the Ervin & Smith way.