Customer service from an agile perspective.
In digital agencies, business experts are often confined to their own areas of expertise, in their own offices. SEO consultants and UX designers are hurriedly informed of a forthcoming project over the phone by the sales rep on his way to see his next customer.
They then struggle on their own to complete their new mission, prior to the customer relations manager concluding and signing the project with the customer. Couldn't we shorten the chain and enhance our flexibility in our dealings with customers? Sure we could. It's what is known as the agile methodology.
WHAT IS THE AGILE METHODOLOGY?
First, let's take a look at the theory. What exactly does agile methodology mean? It refers to an incremental method of design process management (among other things) conducted in a highly flexible and interactive manner. This method depends on people being capable of identifying and instantly processing the customer's data in a pertinent way. With this method, communication between the various parties is far more important than the procedures and standard tools. The focus is mainly on providing efficient products or services rather than in-depth documents. Those working in an agile environment must be open to change, and must not restrict the scope of their work.
FLEXIBILITY ALWAYS WINS
You won't hear me say that the old school approach is entirely devoid of advantages. Not everyone is comfortable meeting customers face-to-face. Most of the time, customers also like to have access to a single contact, to whom they can submit questions and problems. Therefore having a sales manager is important. And of course it's far easier to manage a team in an office rather than people who are out and about meeting customers.
But despite these fundamental advantages, there's also a disadvantage. In many cases, the sales manager isn't fully aware of all the subsets of the technical project, and won't necessarily defend the vision of a project with the same passion as its designer. A direct relationship between an expert and a customer results in greater quality commitment. Moreover, the expert in the field deserves the extra publicity, and will as a result be more invested in what is "his/her own personal marketing project". This will also have an impact on the quality of the image of the agency in question. Some customers will reject creative suggestions merely because they've been proposed in isolation. This certainly isn't the case when traditional methods are applied.
A HAPPY CUSTOMER MAKES FOR A SEAMLESS PROJECT
It is possible to conduct the creative process internally with the customer. This means that a design team (UX and UI designers) will spend several weeks on the customer's premises.
This close collaboration allows experts to join the Digital Marketing team working with the customer. It also means being able to gain faster access to the right people, get direct feedback, and reduce the number of exchanges required to produce the required result.
Generally speaking, customers appreciate this working method, as it significantly reduces the time and work required to develop the user interface design for instance. This process yields a double-edged advantage: that of being able to benefit from the sensible advice of an expert, and providing the sound and necessary proposals that will result in certain developments being either abandoned or pursued.
Everyone gets the opportunity to contribute to the project and voice their opinion, and the result is far more likely to meet the requirements of those concerned. And because the customer has been involved in the initial stages, the acceptance phase is reduced, seeing as the customer's vision has already been taken into account while carrying out the project.
Of course the team will also benefit from this method. Team members get to enjoy a change of scenery and meet new people. Because of their close proximity with the Decision Making Unit, commercial and strategic considerations are also shared with them, thus broadening their working perspectives. This personal relationship with the customer will generate a higher level of commitment right from the beginning, and therefore quality deliverables. Everyone will feel more responsible, and be involved in a far more personal way.
Author: Pierre Thomas, Operations Manager, SQLI Belgium