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Account Transition Tips: Maintaining Client Relationships During a Switch

by Trenton Reed   |   Jul 23, 2020

At Workshop Digital, our digital marketing analysts own the relationship with their clients. To an outsider, this may not seem like a huge deal. Account managers are generally built into the agency structure and have been putting out fires for decades. However, many clients may not think twice about the job title (or inherent responsibilities) of their point of contact—as long as the communication is frequent, the relationship is positive, and the results are substantial.

For the last year, we’ve been operating without traditional account managers. Instead, our Client Service teams—which are mainly composed of analysts who are experts in their respective search marketing field—manage their own client relationships. What this means is that when you partner with us for search engine optimization or paid search services, the analyst managing your account is directly responsible for optimizing your website or bidding on keywords, and reporting on and directly communicating your results. Communication flows faster and there’s less opportunity for details to get lost in translation.

We consider this one of our competitive advantages. In giving our analysts the keys to the car, so to speak, they’re able to drive results with limited roadblocks. But no matter how you spin it, preserving long-term relationships is no easy task. Whether you’ve worked in the agency world for ten days or ten years, you know that change is part of the job. People come and go. However, by paying attention to how we manage relationships, we can better anticipate change and evolve to meet client expectations.

What are account transitions?

Basically, an account transition happens any time a client relationship transitions from one person to another. This can be influenced by internal shuffles (when our team changes) or external forces (when our client’s team changes). Of course, we take every step to minimize the frequency of these transitions—but, as aforementioned, change is sometimes unavoidable.

We try to manage account transitions through the lens of transparency and accountability, two of our core values. In fact, we analyzed four years of client departures and found that the number one reason for client attrition is mismanaged expectations during an account transition. If we can minimize friction during transitions, we can keep more clients longer.

Below are just a few benefits of having an articulated, well-defined transition process:

  1. It establishes consistent expectations internally and externally.
  2. It creates accountability.
  3. It minimizes risk for agency and client.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

Benefits of an Account Transition

1. They help us maintain successful client relationships.

Passing the torch can be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it has to result in degraded performance. Many times, transitions are perceived to be more difficult when an outgoing analyst has strong rapport with their client. However, it becomes the responsibility of the incoming analyst to take over the relationship and bring their own style and strengths into the mix to grow the partnership.

For incoming analysts, it’s important to challenge assumptions. This means remaining receptive to new possibilities and suggestions. Don’t assume what worked in the past with other clients will continue to work going forward. Each client is different; treat them as such.

2. They promote knowledge transfer.

Piggybacking on the claim above, it’s important for analysts to share knowledge as much as possible during a changeover. This can help ensure that the new account owner can maintain and focus on predetermined client goals. So, who’s responsible for this transfer of knowledge? Most times, it’s both parties.

While the outgoing analyst may lead the charge, it’s equally essential for the incoming one to come willing to learn the client’s business. Part of our process involves new analysts shadowing calls and meetings so they can learn the ins and outs of their new client’s business and industry. That that extent, we schedule an internal handoff meeting, which helps the new analyst gather the following information:

  • Historical data and recent performance
  • Competitors and points of differentiation
  • Current tests and works in progress
  • Planned and upcoming initiatives

3. They support work in progress.

Changes in personnel happen whether you like it or not. And many times, analysts are juggling multiple projects and deadlines at once. Luckily, account transitions can facilitate a smooth transfer of responsibility—and can most certainly support work in progress.

To help the new account manager, we have the outgoing analyst document goals, completed work, current work in progress, and any upcoming initiatives. When a true changing of the guard occurs, the incoming analyst should be able to hit the ground running. In these situations, it’s possible to maintain momentum and avoid missing deadlines.

4. They provide an opportunity to assess accounts with a fresh set of eyes.

One of the positive byproducts of an account transfer is that they can provide a fresh perspective. Changing accounts can help present new solutions to old problems. Although we audit and QA our work regularly, transitioning accounts provides additional opportunity for peer review. Because we strive to hire multifaceted marketers, each analyst brings unique specialities to the table and might be able to identify new opportunities for testing.

The Importance of Maintaining Customer Relationships

Ultimately, we know that maintaining excellent client-agency relationships is an ongoing process. That’s why we pay extra attention to clients who have experienced a change before, during, and after the transition. We have routine check-ins with managers that help ensure a smooth transition. We maintain high levels of communication with our clients and our team members and provide both the opportunity to ask questions to ensure understanding.

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portrait of Trenton Reed

Trenton Reed

Trenton joined the Workshop Digital team in January 2019. After earning his B.A. in English from Virginia Commonwealth University, he moved to Denver, where he explored the Rocky Mountains and built a writing career that spanned the digital marketing, advertising, and journalism realms. Since relocating back to Richmond in late 2017, Trenton has freelanced with local agencies and national nonprofits. As our in-house writer, he’s in charge of maintaining our brand voice across all channels.