We recently partnered with leading martech industry analyst, Digital Clarity Group, to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. The survey was part of DCG’s VOCalis programme that has gathered feedback from the leaders of hundreds of companies on more than 40 agencies that manage Adobe Experience Manager projects. It was a rigorous process that applied DCG’s proprietary methodology and scoring algorithms to rate individual companies. Ultimately we were singled out as the best-rated Adobe Experience Manager implementation partner globally and presented with the first ever VOCalis award - which obviously makes us pretty happy. But what else did we learn about what makes for a successful partnership?
Drilling down into some of the findings, we’ve had some incredibly useful feedback from our own customers about what they think are the secret ingredients.
Adobe has several hundred partners that could potentially serve companies embarking on a digital project. So how do these companies ultimately make their choice? VOCalis found that customers highly prioritised partners that demonstrate a deep understanding of their needs. This was the most important factor for 91% of customers that chose to work with Cognifide. This consideration ranked far higher than recommendation, cost, skills, experience and even reputation.
So what’s the secret sauce here? According to our Director of Business Development Leigh Gammons, it’s what makes the difference between a ‘supplier’ and a ‘strategic partner’. While the former may try to sell you a pre-canned solution, a strategic partner will begin by simply listening. They will be honest and they will have the guts to say ‘no’. They will be looking to provide you with what you really need and they will be looking to solve business problems, not just marketing or technology problems.
It’s this empathy for the customer that DCG has highlighted as the most important distinguishing factor when companies are choosing a digital partner.
2. Customer service
Empathy is, of course, a key tenet of good customer service. Companies need to feel that their agency ‘gets’ them and will always appreciate it when they understand their concerns and challenges. Anecdotally, survey respondents indicated that they really value a partner’s ability to listen to and understand client needs, before making assumptions about what might be delivered. One commented that they look for the ‘ability to adapt to the partner they are working with, rather than selling a one-size-fits-all approach’.
In an industry that strives to create the nirvana of one-to-one marketing and personalisation, it’s not surprising that a personal approach is the ultimate goal in customer service.
3. Consistent Execution
You’d think that the ability to implement, upgrade, adapt and manage technology would be a given for any agency. However, survey respondents revealed that this is not always the case. Those with experience of multiple projects cited disappointment in some engagements, ranging from lack of technical expertise, poor project management and bad communication. The general feeling was that all agencies could be inconsistent when it came to execution and delivery.
Happily our clients scored us highly in this KPI. In fact, they identified our sweet spot as the ability to combine client empathy with consistent execution.
4. Client/Agency alignment
VOCalis also focused on the importance of client and agency alignment, highlighting that dissatisfaction is often caused by the feeling that what the partner sold was not, in fact, what was actually delivered. Interestingly, not only did they assess client perceptions of engagements but they also interviewed agency project managers, mapping the gaps in perception between the two. They also mapped the direction of the gap. Clearly if client evaluations are consistently higher than our own, they tend to be fairly happy. If the gap falls in the other direction, then we have a problem on our hands. Again, happily for us, any gap in perception generally fell in our favour.
What creates dissatisfaction?
As well as highlighting the positives of a great partnership, VOCalis also talked to respondents about what agencies could do better. One area for improvement lies in managing client expectations around project cost and timing from the outset. Of course project specification can change during the course of implementation but it would appear that communication around setting expectations and then managing them is an issue for many agencies.
Another area highlighted for improvement also relies on improved communication. Respondents fed back that they would like agencies to work more closely with them to articulate business outcomes and added value. When probed on outcomes, many mentioned fairly tactical measures such as increases in website traffic but fewer could clearly visualise how the project fitted into the bigger strategic picture. Whilst taking this point on board, this is actually encouraging to hear since it implies that companies really are looking to agencies to be more of a strategic partner than an implementation house these days.
It’s always scary to put your head firmly above the parapet and really ask your customers, warts and all, what they think about you. So it’s safe to say that we’re pretty pleased with our VOCalis award and knowledge that, of all the agencies ranked, we were the best-rated and singled out for our empathy and consistency of delivery. In fact, in DCG’s words, that’s ‘what makes the firm unique’.
To learn more about Cognifide, drop our New Business Director, Leigh an email. He’s always happy to talk!