Fixing the Lack-of-Proactivity


Why is your client complaining about the lack of proactivity? What can you do about it?

Agency teams are perpetually vexed by a concerned raised by clients on the lack of initiative and proactivity brought to the fore. It has become so ubiquitous I have started to wonder if is akin to the “it’s not you it’s me” routine, only here it is definitely YOU the client bellows.

There is a desire to justify to ourselves that this is not a genuine concern but borne purely out of the vivid and fanciful imagination of our clients. This desire stems from self-perpetuated belief that ‘we’ have done everything we could do ‘given the circumstances’. There are usually however compelling reasons why the client feels thus:

  • Client servicing team has become complacent

Too busy implementing plans and executing activities can make the servicing teams lazy to break the mould and have a forceful conversation with the client to try out new ideas.

  • Lean period for the client

Business moves in cycles and in the troughs the client can ease up on the pressure for delivery. In a worst case scenario these can lead to errors in delivery or a drop in quality. In a far worse case the client can feel that there isn’t much coming from the agency. While there is decent execution but is no added value.

  • Exhaustion on the part of the servicing team

In my experience the inability of the servicing team to be proactive is not for a lack of trying but rather they have lost the battle after trying several times and failing with an unimaginative client. Enough teams have lamented to me that no matter what they bring to the client is disregarded or never taken forward. This one is simple, senior intervention is called for.

  • Client is not sure why he is unhappy

Several clients fall in the trap of being unhappy with the results of the communication campaign. This could be because there is push back from the company. Some macro-economic reason. Sensitivity of the clients that are making it difficult to execute planned activities. The client is at a loss to manoeuvre in this situation and would like to see solutions from the agency that they call proactivity.


Each case is distinct and no two solutions are alike. Here are some guidelines that could satiate your clients thirst for proactivity:

  • Connect with your clients first

Be the first one to call the client. Find reasons, excuses to engage in a conversation. It could be an industry news / gossip, market information. Tell the client what you are going to do. Wherever possible do this on the phone. Emails are trickier, but ensure that the client sees unique email conversation.

  • “I have an idea for you”

There is always an idea, a thought that you could share with your client. Fructify the thought, build it into a workable plan and share with your client. Identify the frequency of the idea generation. In my experience once a fortnight is best. Not all ideas will be green lit, hence the idea is to sticking to a process and hammering away.

  • Develop and maintain an industry trends report

Clients like to get industry reports that help them stay in touch with trends and are a ready reckoner for their internal conversations. The bonus of maintaining an industry report is a proof point to justify the ideas shared regularly. Keeping up with the competition can be a very real and compelling incentive.

  • Empathy for the client

One has to walk a mile in the client’s shoes. This can be achieved by observing and listening to the client. There are many hints and points dropped. There are pressures and sensitivities that the client has to contend with. Solutions cannot be provided without a clear understanding of the problem. Another way is to have a relationship built on trust and collaboration. Clients are looking for a partner in the agency not merely an executing vendor.

  • “How am I adding value?”

Repeat this question over and over in your head with as much frequency as you can muster. Usually once a week is enough. The harder it is to answer that question you can be sure that the client is going to be unhappy with proactive action from you. It is the servicing team’s responsibility to keep investing in this question. How best can you anticipate a problem and offer a solution. What is it that would aid the client to work with his internal stakeholders and showcase results? The best relationships are based on value provided. Anyone can deliver on execution but few are able to bring a difference to the table.

Chennakeshav Shenoy is the Corporate and Consumer lead in WE Communications India. 

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