How key are partnerships for improving your insights?

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Most of the time I love my job. I work with a great team of people. I have a wonderful selection of clients. And I genuinely believe the work we do helps make a difference.

However, on occasion, I don’t love my job. This has nothing to do with contracts or cleaners—nor to do with HR issues or HM customs. This is about the times I feel SMG has let our clients down. By “letting clients down,” I am not referring to the odd reporting fix, or the late request that we have struggled to accommodate. No—by “letting clients down,” I refer to those times I feel our clients are simply not getting full value from their investment in our business.

Last week at our Client Connect event in London, the meaning of successful partnership was at the front of my mind. Anytime I review our client portfolio with our account teams, our discussion focuses on this question: “What has the client done with our insights?” This is how I measure the success of our partnerships. Yes, the reports have to be delivered on time. And yes, the app needs to work and have the latest hierarchy correctly installed. However, these are not what I see as markers of success. In my mind, success is when a business has worked with SMG on the insights, agreed on a set of tangible actions, and watched the company improve as a result of those actions. When that happens, I love my job.

Insights are about partnership

So, why doesn’t that happen every time? I think it comes down to two things—one which we own, and one the client owns. Let’s start on our side of the fence.

Too often, our account teams let themselves become data processors or admin assistants to our clients. In trying to please our day-to-day contacts, we spend too many hours cutting or slicing data that is available on the reporting website, which the client can do themselves. We go back and forth on changing PowerPoint slides, fonts, or images—which, while looking nice, will not fundamentally change how the information is used. On top of that, this isn’t even the best use of our account managers’ skillset—we employ researchers, not designers. We are keen to please, worried about pushing back, and—as a result—spend far too many hours on work that is deemed important, but is not actually helping drive business performance.

On the client side, I believe there needs to be a shift from the question of “How does this data look?” to “What can we do with this information?” Much of this starts with having the right people in the room. If a company invests in CX, why doesn’t the information get spread across the whole organisation? I agree the data can be owned by the Research and Insight teams—but they are not the ones who will help drive action at the higher level. Our best programmes are those where our presentations are less about looking at charts and more about an open discussion with a company’s CEO, Ops Director, Marketing Director, HR Director, and Finance Director. When these key decision-makers are in the room together, things happen. Action plans are drawn up. Processes are changed. Trials and pilots are implemented. And, ultimately, the business improves.

Get the right people in the room

My message is twofold.

  1. To my team at SMG—Let’s stop allowing ourselves to be processors and ensure we spend more time doing more of what we are good at. Namely, providing insights and actions to drive change and sales growth.
  2. And to our clients—Play your part in this approach. Get the right people in the room. If they can’t make the date, change the date. If the senior team doesn’t seem to care enough to get to the meeting, talk to us—we’ll help get them there. If your CEO spends time looking at the outputs of your work, think how much higher your profile will be in their eyes. And when the sales start to grow thanks to the insights you’ve helped deliver? Well, that’s what I call job satisfaction.
Find out how we’ve built partnerships with our clients to help them gain essential insights and drive their businesses to the next level.  Download the case study here.
Customer Experience Update