Client-agency relationships: the seven behaviours that set the best apart from the rest

By The Drum Network, Staff Writer

February 23, 2021 | 3 min read

New data from leading relationship management company Aprais has identified the seven behaviours that set the best clients and agencies apart from the rest.

The figures, drawn from Aprais’ database of more than 23,000 client-agency evaluations over 20 years, show qualities like trust, communication and resilience are now outstripping functional skills – the ability to ‘do the job’.

Figures from 2010 pinpointed the fundamental characteristics of client-agency performance. Data from the 10-year period to 2020 shows that while functional areas are still critical to team performance, behaviour metrics like trust, challenge, communication and resilience are increasingly important in helping build strong, productive relationships.

Aprais graph

In response to this trend, Aprais has added a ‘behaviours’ dimension to its database. This has defined the seven key attributes of high-performing teams:

  • Accountability: the team sets and takes responsibility for actions and decisions
  • Challenge: the team uses initiative to challenge the status quo, and does not allow conflict to go unaddressed
  • Communication: regular dialogue to ensure facts are shared in a timely fashion
  • Goals: clear objectives are in place, information is shared and the team is stretched and success measured
  • Functional: competence to do the day-to-day work
  • Trust: the team is trusted to deliver, and behaves with integrity.
  • Resilience: can withstand and bounce back from a crisis

A changing picture for agencies and clients

Traditional disciplines haven’t changed much since 2010 for clients or agencies, in terms of order of importance. Behaviours on the other hand have changed in priority over the last decade, and in particular in data taken during the Covid pandemic.

Functional competence has gone from being the highest scoring behaviour for clients 10 years ago, to fourth in 2020, behind Trust which is the new benchmark.

Over the last 18 months (up to 23 September 2020) as Covid has changed the landscape beyond recognition, there have been notable improvements in how clients’ rate their agencies’ communication.

The resilience of agencies has also been noted by clients – as per a previous report by Aprais, it is becoming the must-have behaviour for agencies and clients alike.

By turn, agencies have scored the top 10% of clients better on challenge, meaning the clients that are willing to take risks and try new approaches are scoring better in the eyes of their agencies.

Among the bottom 10%, challenge is the metric that’s lagging, suggesting here is where clients can improve their behaviour and be more open to change to boost their overall relationships.

Beth Lewis, head of client services at Aprais, said: ‘There have been phenomenal changes in the business world in the last decade. The data clearly shows these changes have affected team behaviours and the teams that will succeed, will master these skills. The clients and agencies that are willing to invest time and effort in their relationships will see the most improvement.’


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