You can’t compromise on customer experience

Inside the Moskito Design office, team members work at rows of computers.

You can’t compromise on customer experience

As a creative agency, how we handle brief is one of the most important components of customer experience. And as a graphic designer it’s one of the most difficult parts of my job.

Because when it comes to the brief, often the client doesn’t know what they want, or how to articulate it. You’ve got to get all the information out of them. Know how to ask the right questions. And help them articulate their vision. A lot of things make this difficult for clients. Sometimes it’s technical. The client doesn’t know what’s possible and what technologies are available within their constraints. Maybe their company isn’t cutting edge, and what they’d love to do, what they’ve seen some industry leader do, just isn’t feasible given their budget or size. But mostly I think it’s the fact that they don’t do our job.

They’re marketers. Business owners. Their skills and talents and history haven’t necessarily prepared them to understand the work you do. So we’ve got to guide them to help them get the best possible solution for them.Every client does their own version of the brief. They’ve always got an idea. Maybe it’s clear, maybe it’s confused, but the idea is there. Marketing managers arrive with their budget, but often smaller clients don’t even know that.The key is to follow them ― or rather, lead them ― every step of the way. You’ve got to make them feel important. Make them feel that they’re being heard. That’s what providing great customer experience is about.

Customer experience without account managers

I started as an intern here when we were small. Tiny. Now that I’m agency director, what’s changed is that my role is mostly project management and organizing the work of my team. And managing the relationship with the client.

It’s not something you’re born knowing how to do. Especially when you come straight out of university or come join the agency after doing freelance work. When they start the new designers are often cold ― it can sound rude. It’s not their fault. They just haven’t learned how to respond. But it’s essential that they do.

We don’t have separate account managers here, which means that after me ― the project manager ― being the first point of contact, the designers work directly with the client, interpreting the brief, getting feedback, making changes, delivering the assets.

Having no account managers at Moskito Design means we’ve removed a layer from the system. But it also means we’ve all got to learn how to relate to our clients from day one.

We look for it in new hires: we’ve got to understand that you can work well with the client. Maybe in other agencies you can work in a closed little box and let someone else do the talking for you, but not here.

And at the beginning with the new designers I spend as much time giving feedback on the work they produce as I do on how they work with the client. How they propose and suggest. How they respond. How they deliver. What they say.

Putting yourself in the client’s shoes

It’s may be a cliché, but if you want to provide a great customer experience you’ve always got to try to put yourself in the client’s shoes.

Somebody listening to me on the phone might think I come across as too deferential to the client. But I think that’s the way it should be. People pay for that kind of service. That’s how you keep clients.

That doesn’t mean you always say yes. You’ve got to be clear about how long things take. About what is, technically speaking, not possible. And you’ve got to be 100% straightforward if you’ve made a mistake.

But clarity, honesty, respect and a willingness to bend over backwards ― that’s what keeps clients year after year.

You don’t get big without starting small

It doesn’t matter how big or how important your client is. You’ve got to have the same approach.

Because unless you’re some world-famous agency, big clients don’t just come along and dump big projects in your lap.

When you’re small, you start small. They give you small projects to work on. And little by little you prove your worth. Or somebody moves from one company to another, and then to another. They take your name with them. And that little project you do for a marketing manager at one company becomes a big one at another company a few years into his or her career.

You don’t get big without starting small. That’s how you build an agency from the ground up. That’s why you can’t compromise on customer experience.

New blood means new skills

What’s great about growing as we have is that we’ve had the chance to bring in a lot of new blood with new ideas, new interests, new passions and new specialties, like video and audio production and illustration.

Technology, fashions, it all changes so fast. It’s difficult to stay on top of everything yourself ― and anyway, I don’t think I’m the most technologically advanced. But that’s the brilliant thing about working in a team.

I see it as an exchange: the new blood brings their raw talent and their skills, we teach them how to work on the team, work with clients and be a successful part of an organization. I’ve learned tons from the new guys ― they’ve taught us some crucial technical skills. We depend on them, and we help guide them and give them the space and the means to mature.

On the knife edge of growth

Growth isn’t not always a good thing. What’s difficult is balancing your people on one hand and the projects ― the amount of work ― on the other.

We’re an independent agency. We don’t just have a bunch of somebody else’s money to spend. If you hire more people to put you at ease, it costs money.

It’s always a knife edge between being buried in work ― which means delivering bad service ― and paying people you don’t need for work that isn’t there.

Staying small at heart

Maybe it’s a small agency mentality. When you start, when there’s only a few of you, you always say yes. Yes to everything. You’re flexible. You prices are low. You’re hungry because the threat of not getting a paycheck is always right around the corner.

But I learned from Evelina Borghesan and Giulia Salvioni (Moskito’s CEOs and founders) to keep that same attitude, that same human approach, when I was an intern, a junior designer and up to now.

I always try to get back to my clients immediately. In five minutes. And go out of my way to help. Some big agency that’s listed on the stock exchange might get back to you after a week.

Up to now that’s worked. But as we grow ― well, you’ve got to start charging more. You’ve got to start putting limits.

Will we be able to keep making our clients feel at home with us? I think so. That’s how we work, and we’ve done it right from the beginning. It’s in our DNA.


At Moskito Design our small-agency approach to creating a great customer experience means no excuses, no bullshit, and no middlemen

Giulio Clerici is a graphic designer and Agency Director at Moskito Design. When he's not in front of the computer he loves animals, manual labor and the great outdoors.