UK design criticised by clients

Problems experienced by both design consultancies and their clients have been highlighted in two reports on client relationships, both of which are critical of consultancy standards.

In its first client retention report Relationship Audits and Management, a division of The Tutt Consultancy, has compiled findings from around 2000 interviews, mostly conducted among senior and middle management staff of client companies.

Among its findings are that poor service delivery is to blame for 73 per cent of client roster reviews, and that such moves are a last resort in 66 per cent of cases, after complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

Despite 90 per cent of design consultancies allocating themselves a new-business budget, there is “practically no allocation of budget for client retention”, says the report. It adds that 81 per cent of clients believe consultancies put more effort into gaining new business than developing existing relationships.

In the UK the churn rate of clients – the turnover of clients won and lost by UK consultancies – is 45 per cent, compared with 30 to 35 per cent in the rest of Europe.

A second report, by Brandsmiths, asks brand owners how they feel about the service they receive. It is similarly critical of the creative industries for not responding to the needs of clients. The Havas-owned group’s findings point to a gulf between what consultancies promise and what they deliver.

“One of the frustrations is that often you don’t get what you want from service agencies. There’s a lot of tension. The client feels they end up with a bill and they don’t know whether what they paid for actually worked,” reveals Sainsbury’s marketing director Sara Weller in the research.

Orange head of marketing Rob Furness adds: “It’s very difficult to trust a consultancy unless there’s transparency in the working environment. It’s about teamwork: being open in terms of project difficulties, realities of the commercial lead times; finding the best way through together, not ‘give us a brief and we’ll develop it’.”

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