Are Your Account People Wearing Too Many Hats?


Excellent account service means wearing many hats. In fact, it’s what draws many of us to the industry. It’s natural to be tempted to add more to your account group’s to-do list. After all, AEs are often competent do-ers, able to fit the complex puzzle pieces of client work together, from many perspectives, and do it with apparent ease.

AEs tend to get the job done and, as a result, many tasks fall on their plate. Here’s why that can become a problem for the agency.

Core Functions

Is your account team focused on its two core functions: client retention and account development? Or, are they spending fifty percent of their days opening POs, reconciling jobs, or even securing talent? If it’s the latter, you need to consider how this may eventually damage your clients’ satisfaction with the work.

It’s worth checking in with your account teams, now and often. They have the best sense of what tasks are valuable uses of their time, and what is taking them away from more meaningful work. There are always going to be tasks that no one wishes to do (and if you find someone who does love doing those, keep them happy!), but understand what those time suckers are. Sharing the burden across groups can lift the entire office.  

Workload and Time Management

Pay attention to the office mood; listen to the grumbles about time management and don’t ignore them. Just as creatives need time and space to think, you can get the best from your account people by giving them time to do research, develop strategic insights, write decks, and develop POVs to share with the client.

I guarantee a client will be more impressed with thoughtful analysis of a competitors’ positioning than ten perfect POs.

How can you accomplish this alignment of priorities when “time suckers” are crucial tools to the agency?

  • Don’t be tempted to default responsibility to the account team. Take the time to consider workloads before adding another function to the account group.
  • Determine if your finance person or finance team could provide weekly job reconciliations with some degree of analysis before AEs take a look.
  • Ask media people to follow up on client questions and cc the account team when answering.
  • If there’s a deep hole of missing time sheets, consider asking the receptionist to track down folks owing time and provide updates in one large batch.
  • Can you streamline new business processes to lighten the load?

This sampling of solutions aren’t the right solutions for every office, but the point is to find out what works for your teams and realign your priorities accordingly.

Also, schedule regular check-ins with your account executives. You want to be sure AEs at every level (AAE to Group Director) are consistently working to be experts on the client, are advancing their own careers, and are doing the work you hired them to do.

The best-in-class account teams are those clients can’t live without. Make sure yours are focused on their top priorities, and the rest is more likely to fall into place.

See also: Code Red! Account Service Crisis Alert!

© 2018 Betsy Ahlstrand. All Rights reserved.

Betsy Ahlstrand has worked at agencies both big and small in San Francisco for 17 years. As an account service professional she’s helped nurture and grow brands such as Visa, Yahoo!, Quaker, as well as a number of successful start ups. In addition to providing exemplary account service for her clients, Betsy is passionate about research, account planning and strategy.


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