How to use empathy to guide agency & client relationships
At Unconquered, we use our values as the north star tot guide us– working hard to put people over profit, creating work with purpose, and enabling our creative’s passions. We want our work to reflect this, so we put great thought into who we hire, who we partner with, and how we get work done.
We also know that our work is based entirely on understanding our clients, their customer base and that we will be unsuccessful in our ability to do so if we don’t take the time to put ourselves in their shoes and become empathetic to their wants and needs. Our clients are putting a lot of faith into us, especially considering what they have at stake, whether it’s their job, sales goals, or their business. We take an invested interest in their work and success. It’s vital that we use empathy to guide agency client relationships so we’ve baked it into our entire process from discovery and planning, to the making of the work to seeing it through too activation.
Starting with a great onboarding experience sets a foundation for success.
Our clients work hard to do incredible things, so their time is invaluable. On our Conquer the Noise podcast, we spoke with Arjan Stephens from Nature’s Path. Arjan said it can be scary for entrepreneurs to work with an agency because they are so used to doing everything on their own. There can be a lot of fear around whether an agency will understand your vision and goals, so there needs to be trust in order to relinquish some of this control. The client needs to know you don’t just see their business where it currently stands, but where it’s headed. To build this trust, the client and agency need to ensure they are on the same page from the start.
A proper onboarding is a great way to set teams up for success. Identifying what roles each team member will play, what responsibilities that role entails, and how to best communicate with each other helps set the tone for a healthy client/agency experience from the start. We do this with our How We Roll culture brief. In it we ask our clients about their preferred work and communication styles – how they would like to deal with conflict, whether they consider themselves introverted or extroverted, and how they best make decisions. We also figure out meeting times – do they prefer Zoom, what time zone are they working from, and how often do they prefer to meet. This alignment allows our teams to work cohesively regardless of where they are on the map.
Empathy can increase a team’s productivity, work happiness and engagement.
According to a study from Catalyst, empathy isn’t just good practice for building better work relationships, it is also vital for boosting productivity, decreasing burnout, and increasing engagement – all of which are conducive to creating an optimal team environment. By taking the time to get to know our clients and get our teams in sync, we learn more about the people behind the scenes, which helps us to humanize the process and makes it more enjoyable for everyone involved. While our work is important to us, it’s not the only thing going on in our lives. We try to show our clients how much we value them and that we don’t just view our work together as a transaction.
Listening creates the opportunity to ask the right questions.
In order to stay engaged, it’s important to give clients and each other our full attention. We don’t just consider this a form of respect, it gives us the opportunity to ask the right questions and dig deeper into why they hired us, what they’re looking for, what goals they’re trying to reach, and what challenges they may face. This in turn helps us to improve collaboration, get on the same page before we dive in, and eliminate any misunderstandings and wasted work that could arise due to miscommunication.
Empathy helps deliver constructive feedback.
While creative work has objective goals, it is still very subjective in nature and feedback is a big part of the process. There’s a lot of vulnerability stemming from both sides of the relationship, from the creatives who put their heart and soul into what they do and from the client who is doing something new and outside of their comfort zone. Keeping empathy forefront helps everyone in the room to stay honest and open without making constructive feedback feel personal. Since there are a lot of emotions kicked around in the process, we ease any potential friction by addressing conflict and feedback in our onboarding deck. We want to know if our clients need space before addressing changes or if they would rather give written or verbal feedback.
Practicing empathy in our process isn’t just a one-sided approach. We also remain empathetic towards our team members and we do so by creating and maintaining boundaries both within our agency and our customer relationships. According to Forbes, ”When people reported their leaders were empathetic, they were more likely to report they were able to be innovative—61% of employees compared to only 13% of employees with less empathetic leaders.” By creating a symbiotic relationship through an empathic process, our team can better focus on the work and have fun while doing it.
If you’d like learn more about how we use empathy to guide agency client relationships or how our creative process works, please get in touch for a consultation.
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