/ pr-technologies / To the new heights of quality, or how to make customer service of PR-agency even better?
23 July 2010
To the new heights of quality, or how to make customer service of PR-agency even better?

High quality of customer service for companies operating in the service sector is one of the most important factors for success. Leading companies are constantly maintaining high level of service quality standards and introducing new ones, training their staff, upgrading the system for assessment of the quality of work, and using the best practices to improve the quality of the entire team. CEO of strategic communications company Publicity Creating Valery Kureyko shares his experience of building a successful service quality management system in a PR-agency shared the.

How important is the quality of service for customers of PR-agency? What is the work to improve the quality of service?

With the beginning of crisis, there existed the paradoxical situation in a certain sense. On the one hand, customers squeezed budgets and sought to reduce the cost of services, and on the other - required increasing of the number of works, for less money, and retaining good quality ... In this situation it was very important to find the right balance, and it was not so easy. Why the issue of quality arises again? Because markets begin to recover, and some companies have already felt that the crisis is over. On the background of recovery, and in some cases - of increase of sales level, customers have drew attention to the promotion, informational and reputational component again. But the approach to the budget is tighter than before the crisis – a customer wants each invested UAH in PR, communications, promotion to give feedback
In this regard, an agency needs to show not only a clear scheme of work and communication with marketing, but also improve the quality of services, without which it is impossible to achieve sustainable positive results. Customers pay this issue priority.
Therefore, work to improve the quality of service begins with every employee who improves the quality of his/her place. First, managers are more carefully composed into the customer need, seek to make their work better than it was yesterday, look for new, more effective methods, and customer will always appreciate it. He feels that he is treated carefully, and his wishes are fulfilled.
The second stage – customer service managers (or account managers), who chair working groups. They assess the quality of customer service as a whole, with entire group. Moreover, accounts are in direct contact with customer, and have a backlash almost every day (because if the agency works closely with the customer, the communication is usually daily).
And the third step of tracking the quality - the company's management. Those managers who are directly involved in customer service, receive feedback on the level of "head of the agency - head of the customer company." At this level quality assessment also happens, and clearly enough.

What works in this area are conducted at your company?

In 2010, we launched a program "Concrete results at a fair price," which is aimed at potential and existing customers. Fair price does not mean "little" or "many", but it means the cost, which is optimal for both - customer and agency. There is no secret that in case of an insufficient level of payment, it is problematic to provide good service. And vice versa, when cost of services is exaggerated, the customer will not be satisfied, since sooner or later will realize that he "overpaid." Therefore, agency and customer must perceive each other as equal partners. If the customer will state openly about his goals and objectives, made budget plan (or a range of budget), professional agency will offer him the necessary list of works, services and activities, in accordance with the purposes and within budget. In this case, the agency with vast experience is well aware of what resources (human, institutional) are required for quality of service for each customer, and assigns a fair value.

How much issues of service quality relate to integration into the customer's need?

Here is a direct link. When the agency understands the needs of the customer, its specificity, expectations, it can offer the best option program for promoting. In addition, the process of care will be more clear, simple, to establish good relationships between staff of the customer and the agency.
It is significant that as soon as the market began to activate and incoming requests increased, immediately raised the question of entering into the customer's need, on the one hand, and on the other hand the quality of its service. In order to ensure the quality and service process, and positive cooperation, quality standards should be raised. This requires a post-crisis period.

Problem of maintenance and relationship is always particularly acute for new customers. How this issue is solved in your company?

Each customer has a period of adaptation, when he is "new" for the agency. Likewise, agency is perceived by a customer. The aim is to minimize the period of adaptation, and go through it "without loss" for the both parties. Therefore, a new customer should show special attention, often give additional explanations, clarify the nuances of working together, and of course - clearly assign functions and responsibilities: between customer and agency, as well as between employees within the agency. Here, again, it’s impossible to work without standards, and increase the responsibility of every staff member and in the first place – of an account manager.

If in 2009 there was less work and fewer customers in the market, now there is an increase - in this respect, the quality should not fall more than that it should rise. Then customers will work on a lasting basis and recommend the agency to their friends and partners.
Of great importance is training. We have, for instance, held regular meetings, a mini-training sessions, brainstorming. Company executives are also aware of all the processes, and communicate directly with many customers. Previously, we conducted a separate training session in the summer, and this year it turned out, that training sessions are almost always in working order.

What does each employee to improve the quality of your customer service? Are all of them involved in the process of quality management?

Everyone is involved. The working groups cover all employees - from office manager to accountant. The company has a system through accountability, planning, and issues of quality of service occupy an important position.
Each employee firstly carefully plans his/her activities, and also adheres to standards of work and standards of professional and business ethics. The quality of service is also increased by the use of templates, charts, standardized reporting forms and provided documents. This is convenient for the customer and the agency.

Are there standards of service in the company Publicity Creating?

At the beginning of 2010 we were introduced about 40 internal standards. Since 1998, in the company Publicity Creating has constant process of standardization activities, these standards are taken not from books but from the practice. Through ongoing analysis of work, we have created the most comfortable, best schemes and algorithms. This applies both strategic and tactical issues, until the structure of the reports and document templates.
Today, the increasing workload demands that every manager and entire customer service team strictly adheres to corporate standards. They are produced directly in practice. For example, there are standards for the organization of press events, writing press releases, passing information within the company, etc.. Moreover, the standards tend to modernize, because the company's activities, for example, in 2000, 2005 and 2010 – are different, changing markets, increasing staff qualifications, increasing demands for quality service – inside the company and from customers.

Is there training and coaching system in Publicity Creating to improve the quality of PR-services?

Yes. Training sessions are held in summer and winter, and as for the maintenance and education of managers - is an ongoing process. For instance, after some big event, gathers the working group that worked on this project, and every manager has the opportunity to tell what the pros and cons, he tells what we can improve, then managers summarize the general results of the implementation of the project. We also solicit customer opinions as they evaluate our work.

Is there quality assessment service in your company?

We assess the quality of service, usually weekly, and at the conclusion of the activities and projects. In this process managers are engaged, and customer service managers – at the level of working groups. But the main quality assessment service of the team of Publicity Creating - are all our customers. If customers have signed a contract with us again, or recommend us to their partners - so they were pleased with the quality of service, and it is the highest rating.

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