Should You Have a ‘Client Success’ Director?

by | Oct 28, 2020

Mark Connolly has a job you don’t see in every agency. He’s the Specialist Works’ Client Success Director. He has no up-selling or cross-selling targets but instead, he has an ‘access all areas pass’ – and a standing brief to keep clients happy.

When asked to define his role, Ian suggests that the role is actually quite new to him. ‘Martin, my boss, sold it to me by suggesting; “we are a client happiness industry and therefore we need to make sure that clients are essential to every single decision we are making.”

Bigger companies will have a Chief Client Officer who are responsible for engaging with the clients, but who will also have a revenue target on their backs to get the client to spend as much money as possible. As a Client Success Director, I don’t have that.’

‘I am an independent arbiter that sits between the client and the agency itself who is able to solve and rectify problems and work through challenges. Within my role:

  • I hold the agency to account and ensure that we are structured in a way that allows us to deliver against the objectives of the client.
  • I attend the monthly directors meeting to feedback on market trends, analysis and insights.
  • I am also the bearer of bad news when a client isn’t happy with their service or experience with the agency.’

‘When clients have a problem in an agency where there is no Client Success Director, the individual managing the client is often also delivering work to the client. As a result, when a problem arises the individual at the agency is immediately on the defensive. But instead, my role is to have both hats and council the two through the issue.’

‘I have the freedom to hold the agency to account, make the changes where appropriate and to work collaboratively with both the agency and the client to make sure that the client is happy.’

When asked how Ian tackles the job of feeding back to the team who handle the client, Ian suggests that he is ‘completely independent and that this independence is key to the role.’ He explains that when he discusses work with the client, it is without the client team there. ‘I don’t check up on team, it isn’t about that.’

‘Prior to my talk with the client, I will have spoken with the Account Manager so that they are aware the discussion is happening, and also so that they can give any feedback or changes happening that involve the client. When I return from the meeting, I capture the CRM data and then have a discussion with the Account Manager about actions that we need to take.’

Further to this, when asked how he avoids being pushed to action or to implement changes within the agency, Ian explains that he does ‘not own any client relationships at all. I pass on the information; I don’t action anything. I will follow up with the client after a meeting and let them know that their plans will be actioned by [insert colleague].’

There is a triage process, then some are treated on the wards for observation, some to ICU and at the worst some to resus.

Triage can consist of the times where there are no alarm bells just yet, but instead there has been:

  • A change in client, or client ownership
  • Feedback that something really isn’t working

From here we:

  • Look at the accounts
  • Implement regular assessments owned by the client director
  • Look at what we can change and edit


On the ward for Observation is for times where:

  • New CFO has taken over an agency and they previously worked with another, potentially to want change.

From here we:

  • Onboard them into the agency using our full on boarding process.


ICU: If things continue to raise alarm bells.

 From here we:

  • Increase the frequency of the meetings between the agency and the client and more of the senior team become involved.
  • What if the client were to leave? What can we do to solve it.


Resus: If a client were to say they were unhappy and be completely ready to leave.  

From here we:

  • Get the executive board involved and have a detailed conversation.
  • Discuss whether we want to save this client? Or what we can do to help them during their departure? Offboarding process will begin.
  • At the resus point it is not about the amount of money they spend with us, it is about whether they are happy at each stage.


When asked about the offboarding process when a client is really not happy, Ian explains that they ‘essentially use the onboarding process in reverse. This often involves:

  • Weekly calls with the client
  • Weekly calls with the new agency
  • Handing over of any documents or data that is owned by the client
  • Ensuring that you over-service that new agency