Strong Client-Vendor Relationships Begin with Client Services
Choosing a research vendor in a crowded marketplace can be challenging. When vendors offer similar methodologies and research applications, selecting the right partners often boils down to who can service your business needs most efficiently. The first step in identifying the optimal choice is to identify a business partner, not just a solutions vendor. Before any questionnaires are scripted, the first communication that you’ll often have is with the client services team.
Client services teams function as the gateway to the organization and can make or break any relationship between buyer and supplier. Identifying the hallmarks of what makes an excellent client services team can determine if your voice will be head, or drowned out in a sea of sameness and sales pitches.
How do you know your research vendor’s client services team is up to par? Pal Marton Afzelius highlights three components that every research buyer should look for ahead of beginning a new engagement:
Client service partners should have real conversations with people, not at them. Sounds easy enough, but it takes practice and discipline to maintain a conversational approach. Client services teams should seek out opportunities to have a conversation with clients at every stage of the journey. This not only helps with breaking the ice, but function as initial conversations key to establishing a connection, learning about new challenges, and sculpting the roadmap of internal innovation.
Promoting a healthy partnership sometimes means feeling uncomfortable, and being a “true friend” when it comes time to have difficult conversations. For client services, this should mean asking the tough questions, holding up a mirror to clients, and not being afraid to challenge perceptions and what we all think we know. For the client, this means being open to well-intended questions attempting to understand the nuances of each line of business. Some of the best work and most robust client partnerships come from leveraging the fact that clients know more about their brands and understanding that this is both an advantage and disadvantage in some instances. Working in cohesion with client services teams engage these challenges to form a new perspective. The end results are newly uncovered insights that drive innovation and brand growth.
It’s a Journey!
From that very first conversation to in-depth, immersive work sessions and innovative protocol collaborations, every conversation counts. Seek to ask the tough, thoughtful questions, and find a vendor that creates a safe space to challenge conventions, one conversation at a time. Client services teams’ ears should be wide open, and continue the conversation and journey towards a long-lasting partnership.