The Benefits of “Vendor” Satisfaction?

In search of gratitude, are we doing all we can to foster meaningful business relationships?

There’s a lot of chatter around employee satisfaction and retention. This blog is not about that (though there are several studies showing how millennials are more of a migratory workforce, holding down several more jobs than prior generations and it’s certainly a concern for managers and business owners). Rather, my question is whether there is a parallel we can draw to the agency-client relationship (or vendor-buyer relationship, depending on your preferred semantic).

Truth: “Showing appreciation toward employees is vital to creating an engaged and loyal workforce.

I’d argue that it’s equally true for B2B relationships seeking more engagement and loyalty (two common pain points in the agency-client relationship). But let’s take a step back.

A recent article published on Inc.com seeks to inform its readers on Why Employee Recognition Is Even More Important Than You Think.

It begins by asking a question: “How often do you recognize your employees for a job well done?”

engagement graph
Satisfaction impacts engagement; engagement impacts KPIs–I’d imagine similarities between these findings and those present in the agency-client relationship, too. Via a Gallup Poll.

Rather than answer that question directly, take another approach to it: how often do you recognize your agency for a job well done?

Here is where I’d like to provide a disclaimer: I’m not saying our own clients don’t do this (quite the opposite, actually—as you’ll see further down in this post) and I’m not soliciting any false praise from them, should they be reading this. I am, however, asking a serious question that cuts to the heart of the agency-client relationship.

Like the employee-employer relationship, agencies depend on positive feedback from the hand that feeds them. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the same kinds of results can be had from clients providing agency recognition as that have been found to occur when employers offer employees positive recognition.

Specifically, consider the following points from the Inc.com article linked to above:

  • New leaders can foster an immediate boost in employee job satisfaction by 31 percentage points just by recognizing those who have never received any appreciation from their superiors
  • 80% of employees recognized in the past month reported feeling “fulfilled”
  • Acknowledgement helps build loyalty

Essentially, whenever concerted efforts are taken to foster positive recognition—good things happen.

That same sentiment must transcend into the agency-client relationship, but I would guess that it too often takes a back seat (clients are busy and there’s naturally some distance between the agency-client relationship by virtue of remote conditions or that general sense of detachment that typically arises between two businesses in a B2B-type relationship).

As an agency, we know that we’re only as good as our last phone call—but sometimes it feels good to hear that we’re doing good work. I can recall a specific example that happened last week. We’d recently undertaken a social effort for a local business who has a global presence. Results have been good—great, actually (we’re talking case study material). And things could have continued to go along just as they have been. But the client in this case took time out of her day to send an email to her account manager about how pleased she was on the effort to date. The account manager forwarded that on to the team and, no surprise, there was a palpable uplift in energy—energy that was applied both to this particular account and other accounts in general.

I know it’s a simple statement, but positive recognition is an easy form of gratitude and gratitude goes a long way. If you’re wondering why your agency-client relationship isn’t as strong as it could be, perhaps reexamine the effort you’re taking to recognize positive results–while also reserving time for constructively criticizing (and discussing candidly) the difficult situations.

It’s an agency-client relationship, after all—and those require more than just check-ins, monthly reports and keeping the account current.

The effort applies both ways and in a subsequent post, I’ll explore some of the most common complaints clients have about their agencies (hopefully, not our agency). This has become slightly long-winded, however, so I’ll leave you all with this:

commitment