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5 ways Covid has positively impacted client-agency relationships

While we can’t ignore the challenges the pandemic brought us all, one of the most unexpected legacies of it we’ve seen as a retail design agency has been the positive impact it's had on client-agency relationships. As the dust from Covid-19 gradually settles, here are some of the positive shifts we have been observing in this area.
18 July, 2022
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By Carol Chan, Account Director, UXUS

1. Greater transparency

Remember conference calls? They used to be the norm but covid saw video calls take their place, possibly fuelled by our need for greater human connection during lockdown. Gaining a window into each other’s homes has given us greater transparency into the lives of those we work and collaborate with. In turn it's made us willing to be more open with each other.

At the same time, seeing faces allows us to bond more closely with clients and partners because we can experience more personality and emotional feedback. This is such a positive step forward because feedback on creative work can be emotional, individual and very personal so reading body language is so helpful. It works the other way around too - clients seem to enjoy giving face-to-face feedback rather than just on a phone call, and more and more of them are keen to keep face-to-face video meetings going forward.

2. Gaining deeper insight

Pausing multiple projects and recalibrating work flows temporarily slowed down the pace of the relationship between agencies and clients, making room for both partners to get to know each other on a deeper level. When possible, brands re-visited their strategies and positioning while agencies had re-immersed themselves in the world of their clients, listening to the new challenges they had in order to help them navigate the unknown.

For many of our clients this meant re-evaluating the value that physical stores can bring to customers amidst the steady rise of e-commerce. This was a shift we already knew was coming but in many ways Covid was the catalyst that forced clients to start to addressing it more urgently.

In particular, it’s been about working with brands to gain deeper insights into how to engage their customers, for example with more flexible and experiential retail spaces and pop-ups, but also by re-evaluating what channels brands use for their products. In all of these ways, Covid invited clients and agencies to work together at a greater depth to help weather the storm.

3. Streamlined communication

Clients no longer wait for face-to-face meetings if they aren’t necessary and feel comfortable approaching the team as and when they need on messaging apps, making communication more fluid. The same goes for meetings between team members.

In the past, every time we had a meeting we would book a meeting room and sit together to talk for an hour. Now, the variety of online meeting options and tools available give us much greater variety to choose the best form of communication for the each particular task. This removes certain barriers within the client-agency relationship, making it much more agile and engaging.

For example, individual designers now commonly share their screens with clients during video calls to show work in progress, making clients feel more involved in the work and bringing agency and client closer together.

4. More human empathy

The fact that we all went through the same thing at the same time was a real leveller. It meant that we could all empathise with one another in a new, deeper way. In the context of work, it humanised our relationships more. We had greater understanding of each other’s needs and how that might affect the working relationship.

In the meantime, increased awareness and discussion about mental health needs, physical exercise needs, and about wellbeing in general, meant that relationships had the chance to become more 3-dimensionally human. In many cases this has inspired greater trust. I believe this increasing openness, flexibility and humanity helps to unlock greater creativity amongst our design teams and within our relationships with clients.

5. Increased efficiency

The more flexible, diverse, hybrid and remote working models that arose as a result of the pandemic have made many people more efficient at work. No longer assuming everyone will be in the office everyday automatically means that people need to be better at managing their time, planning ahead, and keeping in more regular contact. There has also been a greater investment in digital tools, services and tech within businesses to allow everyone to work more efficiently remotely.

All of these developments are undoubtedly positive but the big question is whether they will remain in place as things return back to ‘normal’. From speaking to clients and team members, I think that they will. While Covid challenged us in unprecedented ways, it also bonded us more closely together than ever before. It’s this empathy, understanding, and increased willingness to be open, transparent and more communicative that we need to remember as we, hopefully, continue to move beyond covid and continue creating the best customer experiences and retail environments for our clients.

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