What makes for a great brand-agency relationship?
This week, GO! Network members, Tangent, a digital product agency that work with brands to solve digital challenges and craft memorable customer experiences through design, engineering and conversion rate optimisation, sit down with their client, UK Power Networks to discuss the key to mutual success and reflect on their brand-agency relationship so far.
This interview includes insights from Aidan Roberts, Project Director at Tangent, Jacqueline D’Angelo, Technology and Change Manager at UK Power Networks and Dave Roberts, Chief Information Officer at UK Power Networks.
GO!: How did the brand-agency relationship start and what was the brief?
AR, Tangent: The partnership started in 2016 and has gone from strength to strength ever since. Initial work included reviewing the website customer support model since when projects have now moved on to look at modernising the underlying tech stack supporting the entire UK Power Networks digital estate.
DR, UK Power Networks: Before our recent larger projects, Tangent had already previously been in our existing network of suppliers. So, when we needed real talent, we didn’t need to look necessarily that far to find some pearls and unearth them. Tangent has been this for us and it’s been a very positive last six to nine months.
We gave Tangent permission to challenge us and not just take orders. We needed some more open-mindedness and Tangent brought that refreshing external perspective that we couldn’t have got with some of our more traditional suppliers.
GO!: What moments stand out as being the most memorable during the brand-agency relationship?
JD, UK Power Networks: The main one was when we went live with our new website on the 31st October, and on the very first day, there was Storm Aiden. Historically, storms translate to potential website issues as customer traffic goes up and our infrastructure had challenges to support the volume of people contacting us. With this first storm, everyone was perhaps apprehensive but I was particularly nervous since I have attached myself to Tangent – Tangent’s success is really my personal success. Even with this baptism of fire, there was nothing to worry about since everything passed with flying colours.
DR, UK Power Networks: That also stands out to me because it showed me that Tangent really understood the importance of a storm scenario for our critical national infrastructure and were completely on it with frequency reporting and being completely visible and accountable.
GO!: What have been some key challenges you have faced together and how did you overcome them?
AR, Tangent: Initially, our latest project together has been somewhat of a new landscape for us to get our heads around, so we needed to find some people with very specific experience and knowledge. We’re really pleased to have been able to pull that off and make that handover and transition really smooth.
DR, UK Power Networks: Any challenges are quickly overcome by the two-way relationship we have. We give you the confidence to say it how it is, what you think and where you might be struggling. At one point, I remember we had a scenario in which you were being demanded on from a number of angles, which led to a difficult workload. Ultimately, the onus was on us to give you that single point of contact and more budget, which you brought to light in a very professional and straightforward way – which is a very difficult line to tread because you don’t want to be seen as being opportunistic or complaining to cover up failings. The mature way in which you approached that was really refreshing and the fact that it’s not a one-way customer-supplier relationship is something I always want to encourage, because we’re not always right and we need to deliver together.
JD, UK Power Networks: We also overcome challenges together down to the unique set up of the team. I work with a team of people at Tangent, and it’s not a usual supplier relationship where I struggle to get hold of people. I even picked up the phone on Christmas Day to Andy Eva-Dale [Tangent’s Technical Director], and he did what he could to help me. To be able to know that I can speak to anyone at any time of the day or night is priceless. I speak to Aidan all the time since he’s always available and approachable. I really feel that Tangent does something that we don’t see very often in that they go above and beyond. When I need something done, I don’t have to worry. You really get the feeling that beyond the obvious commercial element, the prime mover for Tangent is getting us at UK Power Networks what we need in that moment.
GO!: Did the pandemic change the dynamic of the partnership?
Tangent & UK Power Networks: We agree that the overall trend for video calls as a result of people working from home has actually improved communication.
GO!: What do you think is the key to success in a brand-agency relationship?
JD, UK Power Networks: Trust and confidence. We need to know that we’re getting value for money. This is especially important when you consider that we’re not website developers so we completely trust Tangent to tell us what to do as we know that it’s in their best interests to get the best result possible for us. For example, I love the fact that everyone in the Tangent team is completely invested in the weather [since it can impact our network] – they’ll even ring me up when there’s a storm coming to warn us and whenever we are gearing up after a weather warning, they already know!
DR, UK Power Networks: As with any relationship, I agree that it’s trust. You hear an awful lot of talk about ‘how people are acting in your best interests’ but it often doesn’t manifest itself. We’ve got a great partnership with Tangent and we know that if we do the right thing by the customers then the natural by-product of that is success. Tangent are also great in being able to understand where we are in our evolution as a business, and subsequently tailoring their approach to us by recognising our ambitions but also making sure we’re not treated like a brand-new digital-first business.
AR, Tangent: It’s great to have a client who is so open to ideas. We both have the main focus at heart of always tackling the problems for the customer and therefore doing the best possible job for UK Power Networks. It really is the type of client that we look for as an agency.
GO!: How do you measure success in your brand-agency relationship?
JD, UK Power Networks: In our position as a utilities company, not a software build company with a huge IT workforce, we really are dependent on our suppliers. We judge that relationship to be successful when we feel like we are at the centre of their world and like we’re on a journey together.
DR, UK Power Networks: To be a bit blunter, you don’t have success unless you get the metrics right around uptime, resolution time, frequency and more. The numbers really don’t lie, and that’s what gives us confidence in your team. Another thing I like about Tangent is how consumable their reporting is. I can pass it straight up the line without having to worry about explaining anything since it’s always focussed on the right aspects.
AR, Tangent: From an agency perspective, our quarterly reviews between ourselves and UK Power Networks mean that we can take a step back from the granular day-to-day details and assess our progress on the roadmap together and how we can make things better.
GO!: What is the biggest misconception that you hear about working with an agency?
JD, UK Power Networks: I’ve never had or heard any misconceptions about working with an agency.
DR, UK Power Networks: The only thing I’d say here is that I don’t think the title of a digital agency suits you at Tangent. To me, an agency is a company that thinks about the project in the research and discovery phases, but doesn’t actually carry out any of the work. To me, you are technical practitioners since you do it all – the research, consultancy and you roll up your sleeves and are available 24/7.
GO!: What are you most excited for regarding the future of your brand-agency relationship?
JD, UK Power Networks: I’m very excited for the project which will see us being able to support triple the number of customers on our site than before
The GO! Network work regularly with brands to help them benchmark existing agency performance, or connect them to new agency partners. If you’re looking for advice or support on building agency relationships, put some time in with us here.
Published date: July 8 2021