Over-servicing has historically always been a part of agency life but what we are seeing today is an industry which has seemingly reached its limit, now being detrimentally affected by over-servicing levels. It is therefore essential that management teams tackle this issue head on, whether that is implementing new technology solutions, revising the way clients are billed or enacting a culture change. However, it is not always a matter of top down leadership, staff also have a vital part to play such as making sure timesheets are completed accurately, and activity levels are monitored and accurately communicated with clients.
A report by PR Week and commissioned by Deltek, highlighted the significant level of over-servicing within the industry, noting that at present seven percent of billable time is not collected. If you consider the revenue intake from PR agencies around the UK this equates to a considerable sum. Additionally, over-servicing has more than just a financial impact, it can also affect people management, productivity and creativity, reputation and future-proofing.
The report also highlighted that over-servicing is often the result of process untidiness and a top down approach is required to educate managers and departments of agency expectations. More often than not, this is a matter of battling ingrained opinions such as creativity not being compatible with deadlines or that timesheets are so error-laden it is not of use to factor them into internal planning. In fact, according to PR Week, the former is usually the result of mismanaged project planning and the latter could be countered through an effective accountable system.
So what can be done to counter this pattern of agency bad behaviour?
Review financial policies
In the fast paced world of PR no two days are the same which means that projects are consistently changing, client demands are a moving target and projects are under threat of over-service consistently. One way to effectively defend against the seemingly eventual over-service is to have some form of agreement – preferably a SLA – in place to enable staff to be focused and creative, within a defined remit. Ultimately this should also keep clients expectations in check and improve the quality of agency work produced.
Implement a culture change
A management team should lead by example to bring about change – ensuring buy in from all departments and gently moving towards a consistent approach from pitch and contract, to client management and deliverables.
The right agency management system will provide insight into all aspects of the project lifecycle, highlighting where over-servicing occurs and identifying areas for improvement. It will also help track against KPIs and maintain the balance when it comes to resource allocation, timesheet management, and profit and loss.
Ultimately, for an agency to make a shift it needs to come from the top. However, reducing over-servicing levels should be the responsibility of the agency as a whole, as everyone has a part to play. Leadership teams need to have confidence in the changes and processes they are implementing, but also be aware that they have an important education job ahead of them when it comes to securing buy in from the wider agency. Likewise, staff need to take responsibility for their individual aspects. By doing so, it elevates the issue of over-servicing to higher importance and ensures it doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of a single person or team.
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