Badly behaved clients, re-forecasting due to higher salary costs, remote working challenges and whether 4-day weeks would work in our industry were among the key topics discussed at our monthly nineteen agency leaders meeting last week.
During the monthly virtual catch up, agency leaders were asked to raise the issues impacting them most right now for discussion and advice from the group. How to handle clients that “make your team’s lives miserable” was up first.
While some leaders recommended resigning, or threatening to resign the client, others suggested trying different team members on the account who won’t put up with any crap or are able to handle the client better, or simply saying it how it is. “I was honest and upfront with a client and told them they were really upsetting my team. They didn’t realise and were mortified,” said one leader.
Everyone agreed that client behaviour can have a big impact on team morale and motivation, and if you don’t act to protect your staff in situations where clients are behaving unreasonably towards them, they could end up being unhappy and leaving.
“The last thing you want is for people on the team to feel they are being forced to do something they don’t want to do. That could have a detrimental impact on the culture of your agency,” advised another agency head.
Echoes of the pandemic
Unrealistic expectations from clients, particularly around short lead times and deadlines, a topic that has been discussed in some of our recent meetings, was also raised again. “It’s frustrating as we have clients that are not sticking to their own deadlines, yet the expectations they have for us, their agency, are totally unrealistic,” said one agency leader, with many others agreeing they are experiencing similar challenges.
Though, one agency head believes things still are not back to normal yet after the pandemic. “What is normal now? These issues are all echoes of the pandemic that continue to reverberate throughout the industry. It’s hard to know what the rules of engagement are now. What is the status quo?”
The conversation then moved onto another topic, rising salary costs, which has also been covered before. “We’re re-forecasting, because although revenue is pretty static, the cost of payroll for 2023 is going to be a lot higher,” said one agency leader, adding that he feels that some recruiters are whipping up a storm and pushing salaries higher in the sector.
Another agreed, adding that bringing new people in on higher salaries is forcing them to look at salaries of existing staff, and increase them too, perhaps earlier than they would have otherwise.
Remote working and the 4-day week
The impact of remote and hybrid working on productivity and culture was also discussed, with many agencies still struggling to entice their staff back into the office as regularly as they would like.
“We have our staff conference coming up and I will be asking people to get back into the office more, though I don’t want to formalise anything,” said one agency head.
The leaders discussed various ways of encouraging people to come into the office, as well as making it mandatory for new staff to be full time in the office for their probation period, which is working well for some.
The four-day work week, which is being touted as the next big trend in flexible working, also came up in discussion – mainly whether it could work for the events industry, which sometimes requires a 7-day working week if you are on-site all weekend preparing for an event kicking off on a Monday.
“I reckon you would end up having time off in lieu requests that are off the scale, and ours are bad enough already,” said one leader, while others said that a 4-day week would be unlikely to be well received by clients.
Another added: “We are not a transactional service business. Our industry is all about serving clients at the last minute and events can change all the time. I agree that time off in lieu would be a nightmare. I think we need to give our people autonomy and the maturity to make their own decisions about their working week. If we trust in our staff and they are happy and our clients are happy, who cares if they do it in 3 hours or 3 days.”