Tech Kikubari and growing accounts within digital agencies

From A to B. But what happens to the client relationship when you get to B?

As consultancies, our role to accelerate digital change, a product roadmap or project gives us a deep engagement with our clients at the beginning of the relationship.

In Japan there is the idea of Kikubari (気配り) which means “the art of anticipation” and can be recognised as the Japanese style of silent and unprompted customer service. This exposes the excellent, preemptive customer service we might want to adopt in the business by anticipating our clients needs as a base level of service. In agency-world this could be portrayed as tickling the immediate needs with trips out for drinks, dried fruit at meetings and handwritten birthday cards.

But our view is that account management is so much more - we advocate business adding value at all times and so we shift the balance of anticipating both business and technology needs by silently and unquestionably standing and thinking in our client’s shoes and dodging the dark side and overdosing on Kikubari cakes with diminishing impact. (cue, huge but interesting off-beat article!)

We want our Kikubari cakes served with added value - a proactive tech strategy is a good place to start.

Here are four tips for your account management team to use technology as an engagement tool with your clients to help grow their accounts some more.

Technology as the agent for change

Digital businesses and services get buffeted around more than most. Changing business processes, new technology, security concerns and new touch points all create flux. Naturally this affects both the user experience and also the technology on which the service is built.

Technology change can be presented as less subjective and attention therefore focused on it - for example a technology platform approach the EOL (end of life date). Here are a few more...

Tip 1) The easy one; platform upgrades

As a technology business our goal is to stay ahead of the technology curve. We publish our annual Technology Radar which looks at the upcoming solutions in the market.

Whether this is any of the solutions we support; Ionic, Pimcore, Kentico, AngularJS, NodeJS, Symfony2, Docker or Scala each of these have end of life support on their version. Picking LTS (Long Term Support) frameworks means the time for upgrades is longer but these will still require minor version upgrades for security purposes.

Our tip here is find the technology in a service, review the changelogs for them and review any minor version upgrades for security reasons or end of life notices for the version you’re on.

From here a version upgrade path can be followed, a regression test and deployment through to production.

An easy starter for a conversation with your client and why not look at the backlog to see what features should be upgrades at the same time and expend the effort for regression just one?

Tip 2) Improvements with user testing and conversion tracking

With great tools to measure success such as KissMetrics, Optimizely, MixPanel or good old Google Analytics, the data and insight held in these platforms can help your client hugely.

Our technology Kikubari would tell us to create a report on the main funnel of conversation (e.g. signup, purchase or contact form) and create a script to do some user testing.

Emailing over a Google Spreadsheet model of the business impact of improving conversion unprompted helps demonstrate potential in an idea before any commitment is needed. And if interesting a scope to pursue user testing would create a dialogue on improving the existing product.

Tip 3) Designing and crowdsourcing ideas for a hackathon

Running a Hackathon can be an inspiring event but it is quite tricky for many organisations to organise from within. They should be led by the creative design and engineering team - what happens if there isn’t a lead willing to pick up that mantle or the team doesn’t exist?

Our offering to help organise a hackathon brings our tech skills and velocity to a business team with great ideas. Crucially though it puts those stretch ideas within grasp and sets up a mechanism.

Delivering an agenda and pool of topics hand picked from your consultancy kicks off the Kikubari in a team.

Tip 4) Technology radar & opportunities

One thing we often do is keep our clients up to date on happenings in the market and drawing up charts of disruptions within their respective industries or verticals. Our most recent review has been looking at conversational UI and chatbots for our clients. We’ve created a video to give an overview and insights which we share with our clients.

A new technology is out in the market but tying this back to the everyday requires some thought.

Kikubari here for us means - we saw this and thought of you. A light but effective touch point to add value to clients.

Using a tech partner to help drive account growth

When the bulk of the project is done and the top consultants visit less frequently does the relationship start to withdraw and do you lose that precious touch point with the clients? Perhaps the account managers wear down the pavement from your office to the clients to keep the passion alight.

Any customer lifecycle naturally goes through change over time and so we’ve shared some thoughts on how taking a proactive technology approach can support strong relationships to reinvigorate projects and add value.

Byng partners with design and digital consultancies to deliver technology roadmaps for their clients. As part of our partnership with these consultancies we support them to achieve long term relationships and growth through technology delivery.

Never should a relationship be soured on account of bad tech delivery! If you’re interested to see how we can support you and help, drop us a line and we’d love to share some examples.

Kikubari is best defined as: “The Art of Anticipation”.

It comes from two words: “ki” meaning spirit, and “kubari”, the noun form of the verb kubaru, which means to distribute. Hence, kikubari literally means “to distribute one’s spirit”.