Microsoft is top for digital sales service performance

Microsoft's investment in its UK sales support has paid dividends, with agencies ranking it the best- performing digital media owner on sales service performance. The third Digital Media Owners Image Survey, commissioned by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, asked digital planners, strategists and buyers in agencies to rate their overall experience of dealing with digital media owners. The results for March 2008 show that MSN UK improved its performance by seven percentage points on last September's survey, scoring an approval rating off 58% of respondents saying their experience of dealing with MSN was good. Microsoft commercial director Chris Ward attributed the company's success to its emphasis on staff investment. "Over the past five years, we've built up a team of 94 people working on our display team - with a third of this team looking after sales support. I don't think there is a team that would match that in terms of size," he said. And while Yahoo - whose ad reach includes Blue Lithium and Flickr - fends off a Microsoft takeover, it would appear many digital agencies would welcome such a move from a customer service point of view. Only 38% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that Yahoo's level of service was good - a fall of seven ratings points since the last survey. Yahoo's deal to sell ads on Bebo is also proving harmful from a customer service point of view. Only 35% of agencies are satisfied with Bebo's customer service - a seven- point fall since Yahoo took over the Bebo sales contract. Traditional media owners scored well - Channel 4 coming second in the survey with a score of 49%, and showing a marked three- point improvement to achieve a 36% score. C4 also came out top of media owners based on demonstrating a good understanding of cross-media opportunities, with a 42% score. The biggest improver was the Microsoft-owned Drive PM, which improved its rating by 13 percentage points, while came bottom of the 25-company league table. Nigel Gwilliam, IPA head of digital, said a top score of 58% meant there was room for improvement. "When times are good, it appears service levels get laissez-faire - they hit targets and don't seem to care about long-term relationships." Industry views on sales performance Mike Buckley, head of trading, I-Level "Overall, the service level isn't great, but the money hasn't stopped rolling in, has it? Until revenues start dropping, they are not going to learn their lessons, because at the moment there's no penalty for bad service. "It is no surprise that Yahoo and AOL have performed badly this time. Both have lost senior management. In search, Google's results should be higher. While it (Google London) ranks top in terms of service, it still seems to have communication problems with the media agency world." Khalil Ibrahimi, managing director, Unanimis "For every one person in a commercial role, there should be two people behind the scenes. Selling is the easy part - making ads run on time, invoicing and collecting revenues is the hard part, and a lot of companies forget this. "I overheard one sales person at a media owner complain that a client wanted them to jump through hoops because they had just spent £150k with them... well, yes, the client should expect that. People forget that buying and selling of media is a people business, a relationship." business. not about plug-ins or new technology. You can't buy 20 year relationships with trading executives overnight." Wayne Arnold, managing director, Profero "As more investment comes into the market, you would expect that to be replicated in terms of service, but, unfortunately, the survey suggests that as sales volumes increase, service is decreasing. Media owners are not training and developing their staff to cope. "The industry is now dealing with total online ad revenues of £3bn plus and, inevitably, expectations have got higher. The next survey will reveal an even greater polarisation between the companies that do well and those that don't." "Google should be getting better results in search. Part of the problem with the search owners is that trading is much more of an automated process. You don't get same levels of agency rapport."

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