“The client said to change to this.”
“The customer said white is better.”
“The client didn’t want this shape.”
“The customer was demanding.”
“The client is still demanding.”
“Huh? What? Client or customer?!”
The above are some of the day-to-day remarks we hear from people, including our own colleagues (looking at all you producers out there!). The terms, ‘client’ and ‘customer’, are often used interchangeably and loosely in many industries. We tend to address the stakeholder who procures our services as either one of the titles. But are there any real differences between the two?
I BUY, THEREFORE I AM
From a business perspective, the role of the customer is direct, with the main interaction happening at the point of the transaction before saying goodbye.
The client, on the other hand, has a higher level of engagement. He/she is someone who buys goods/services and usually has a relationship or an arrangement with the seller/provider. The title is not limited to individuals but is also applicable to companies and organisations.
Let’s take a café as an example. The customer is one who orders a cup of coffee, pays for it and goes on his/her way. The café owner is the client of the coffee supplier. In this context, he/she would be more involved in establishing a firm relationship, to get the best coffee beans, good bulk discounts and first dibs on new arrivals.
As a 3D animation and motion design studio, we adopt the partnership approach and see them as ‘partners’. By definition, partnerships are collaborative relationships that focus on achieving common objectives and successful ones tend to revolve around trust, respect, and mutual understanding. The above set of values is important to producing good work while maintaining a strong rapport with our partners.
We understand that our partners may face a variety of limitations (budget constraints, short turnaround time, multiple layers of approvals etc.) while trying to achieve the best results for every 3D animation, motion design or VFX project. As a creative studio, our wish is to be able to exercise our creative professionalism in proposing exciting ideas, solutions, weighing project needs and the feasibility of requests from our partners. And ultimately, producing creative and visually stunning stories that we at Masonry Studios are proud of.
GIDDY UP, PARTNER?
We have had our fair share of encounters where the clients are inclined to push their way through instead of adopting the partnership approach. Oftentimes, the production process ends up either sluggish, with multiple changes in between, or an uncomfortable one, where everyone just wants it to end as soon as possible. The final output is a direct representation of the entire process; a standard fragmented Frankenstein that just works on a superficial level, but without care, brand story or artistic flairs infused.
Working with clients in an overly compliant way stunts our growth as a creative entity. Domineering clients are particularly cautious of new things. They see creative explorations as a waste of time and bold ideas as being too adventurous. This directly conflicts with our vision as creative professionals, where we seek to push limits/boundaries for the betterment of the project. The partnership approach helps us to clearly define our role; to help our partners understand the benefits of embracing creativity and fresh ideas while avoiding showing soulless, bland, seen-a-million-times work to the world.
RIDING TOWARDS THE SUNSET, TOGETHER!
With our visions and goals aligned, each and every stakeholder becomes a collaborator (or what we call ‘forward thinkers’) in the creative process. We welcome forward-thinking partners who are open to new ideas, receptive to opinions, understanding and in full acknowledgement of the extent of the project’s limitations.
Our partners put their trust in us to work our creative magic, understand that we craft solutions well within the means of the project, and respect us as professionals in our field. This approach facilitates our discussions, encourages both parties to listen and understand first, and provides constructive feedback when necessary. We can see this happening each time they come on board as an effective collaborator, rather than just a paymaster.
At the core of it all, we want each 3D animation or VFX project that comes our way to be a collaborative effort between us and our partners. This is why the partnership approach speaks to us because we see them as an integral part of the entire process, as an extension of us and vice versa. As collaborative partners, everyone can effectively share, develop and execute ideas efficiently, without affecting growth in our respective fields.
Graphics by: Benjamin Lim (https://www.thebenjmark.com/)
This is the first blog post of a series that focuses on producing and project management from our studio’s perspective.