Why we made Project Manager a customer service job
In May of last year we announced we were looking for an account/project manager. For reasons Giulia has explained, soon after we decided that rather than hiring one from outside we’d elevate six from our own ranks to serve in their new role of Agency Director: Giulio Clerici, Gian Maria Gallicchio, Iris Ranzani, Paola Taccardi and Thiago Taniguchi, who all previously served as art director and project manager, and Gaetano Giarracca, who is the senior developer. These six Agency Directors will be carrying forward our image of the agency and how we work. And one of the most fundamental aspects is with customer relationships.
Why is it so fundamental? Because 10 years into the business, the clients we get still largely come by word of mouth. To get that kind of support from your clients, you obviously need to deliver good work. That work used to be ours alone, but as we’ve grown and as Giulia and I have each transformed our role within the business from graphic designer, to project manager, to art director, to CEO of a 39-person agency, the graphic design talent now belongs to those who work for us.
The one thing we’ve never given up on, however, is working to maintain good relations with our clients. It’s essential to our business. But it’s something we’re now going to rely more and more on our management team to do as they take on, as Agency Directors, the traditional duties of both project managers and account managers for individual clients.
Service with a smile
How do you maintain good customer relations? Our approach has always been pretty simple. On a personal level, we’ve tried to be nice and willing to help. When you’re friendly and have a smile on your face you’re not going to get people being rude to you. If you’re positive, you get positivity in return. Of course, there are clients who are sometimes less than friendly, but these are exceptions. The only thing you can control is your attitude and your behavior and that’s usually enough to make a difference. If you’re friendly and open you’ll reap the fruits of a good attitude.
To be honest though, being courteous and polite doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. I don’t know if it’s like this at other agencies, but we’ve had to jump on some of the younger guys’ backs about how they communicate with the clients! But they learned. And now our six directors will have to help teach that to the younger guys as well, to represent us to them and pass on what they’ve learned.
The art of serving your client
And then there’s the work itself, which starts with the brief. Sometimes the young designers we take on here are a bit surprised about the fact that they get a very detailed brief from the client ― and the path that the client has chosen is not the one they’d have chosen themselves. But we’re not artists, we’re designers. Artists usually want to express something inside of them. Of course, artists have clients as well, and to survive they do work on commission. But we’re designers, and we serve our clients.
Our strength is knowing how to talk with our clients and help them find the right path to follow on the basis of our clients’ needs. That’s why they come to us ― we’re the experts in visual communication. But a lot depends on the person you’re working with.
Smaller clients tend to be experts in their product, but not necessarily how to visually present it. Marketing managers at larger companies tend to speak our language more. It’s great if you see eye-to-eye with your clients, but sometimes even the marketing managers can’t see things with the visual clarity that we do. Our job is to take the brief toward the best solution, and often it’s a compromise between what we’d really like to do and what the client thinks is best.
In the last few years we’ve gotten further and further away from simply executing briefs ― now we consult a lot on strategy. The more experience we get as an agency, and the more experienced our team is, it puts us in a better place to help our clients at a higher level.
Clients aren’t always easy
Some of our bigger clients have offices all around Europe. It’s not always possible, but we usually try to meet with our clients face-to-face, because I still believe it’s only by meeting with clients face-to-face that you can understand them and understand their feedback.
One of our most demanding clients, for example, had us working round the clock on a big project, fussing over every comma in the copy. Giulia and I have known him for a while, but the guys now working on the project were new to him and, frankly, to them he just seemed like a total ball-breaker.
But after the project was delivered the client invited these three designers out to lunch. They got to know each other, and when our guys got back to the office they couldn’t stop talking about how great he was. Now they jump at the chance to do more work for him, because they understand each other.
We’re always working under deadlines, and the work is very subjective. Often you think you’ve done a great a job and the client asks you to re-do everything. So you’ve got to be able to work well together, understand each other and what they want. And to do that you’ve got to nurture these kinds of relationships ― and at now that means having our management team do that as well.
Giulia and I have always worked hard, and have a great relationship, but we certainly owe our success to a bit of luck. We’ve managed to be in the right place at the right time and jumped on the passing train.
Most of all, though, we were lucky to find some really wonderfully talented people right from the beginning. And now, we feel fortunate that six of them are growing into their new comprehensive roles as Agency Directors to help us carry on and continue to build the strong relationships we’ve forged.
At Moskito Design everybody’s in the business of building strong client relationships.