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Don’t only work for the customer. Be part of the customer

By Pierre Thomas, WAX Interactive. We often see in creative design agencies that domain experts remain tucked away in the office. Most of the SEO consultants & UX designers are briefed about their next project in half-lit meeting rooms, or even worse, by the account manager who’s in the car, rushing off to their next client. They quietly churn away at the new tasks, and finally the account manager chimes in, and shares the output with the client. Isn’t there a way to shorten the chain and to improve flexibility towards customers? Of course, there is, and it is called the agile design management.

Agile methodology?

Let us take a look at the theory first. What is agile methodology exactly? Agile management refers to an incremental method of managing the design (or other) process in a highly flexible and interactive way. This method requires capable individuals, that can find the relevant customer input and immediately process. Communication with the different parties is in this method far more important than standard procedures and tools. The focus is mainly on delivering a well working product or service, rather than on providing thorough documentation. Someone who is working in an agile environment, also should be open to changes instead of freezing the work scope.


Flexibility always wins

You surely don’t hear me say that the old-school approach does not have certain advantages, because not everyone is comfortable meeting clients face-to-face. Mostly, customers also want a single point of contact in case of questions or problems. Therefore, an account manager still is important. And of course, it is far easier to manage a team in an office than when they are working at the customer side.

Next to these basic advantages, there is also a downside. In many cases, the account manager is not always fully aware of all technical project elements and will not defend a vision with the same passion as the designer does. A direct relationship between an expert & client also results in a better overall quality commitment level. The domain expert on the other hand, merits from the added visibility, and will invest more in his personal marketing. This also reflects on the quality of the agency he is working for. Customers can reject creative proposals, since the design process took place in a black box. This is certainly not the case when applying traditional methods.


A happy customer = a smoother project

At Wax Interactive for instance, we execute the creative process in-house with the customer. This means that, for a few weeks, a creative team (UX and UI Designer) occupies an office at the customer side.

This close collaboration results in experts taking a seat next to the Digital Marketing team of this customer. Discussions are handled quickly with all the right players, feedback is provided rapidly and less iterations are required to produce the expected output.

In general, customers applaud this way of working, as the time and work required to develop a UI design for example, has been reduced. While collaborating, they get first hand advice from a domain expert, who gives them strong foundations to support or discard certain perspectives.

As everybody gets a chance to chime in, the resulting output often better responds to all the expectations from the various stakeholders involved. And as the client gets to collaborate already in an early stage, the acceptation phase is much shorter, since the customer’s vision has already been considered in the output.

Of course, the team also reaps the benefits. They get a change of environment, and meet new people. By being close to the Decision Making Unit, commercial & strategic feedback is shared with them as well, allowing them to see their own work in a much larger perspective. As soon as they have met the customer, this personal relationship generates a high level of commitment to deliver quality, as people are feeling responsible in a much more personal way.