We have often said that client-agency relationships are similar to personal relationships; equal partners learning to get along, overcoming differences for the greater good.
So it was with great interest that I read this article published in the Wall Street Journal “AI Could Prevent Marital Arguments Before They Even Begin“. It describes how researchers use listening devices and algorithms to detect speech patterns that typically precede fights.
A 2017 study tracked 19 couples from the Los Angeles area who experienced conflict during the course of one day. The couples wore monitors that tracked variables such as heart rate, perspiration and activity levels. Their smartphones prompted them hourly to report how they were feeling and recorded audio that was then analysed for acoustic features such as pitch and frequency and linguistic features such as the number of verbs and pronouns.
According to the authors, the more couples used second-person pronouns such as, ‘You didn’t do the dishes,’ the more likely that expression includes anger than saying, ‘I felt frustrated when I saw the dishes in the sink.’
Clue number one, it’s about How we say it, as much as What we say.
Using the data gathered, the researchers were able to train the algorithms to detect conflict with 79.6% accuracy. The algorithm identified fights in progress and also patterns that would lead to an argument within minutes.
“Detecting and monitoring these sequences as they occur in real time could make it possible to interrupt, alter or even prevent conflict behaviours,”.Theodora Chaspari, asst. professor in computer science and engineering, Texas A&M University.
Just like an episode from Black Mirror, let’s imagine for a moment if this dialogue were monitored in the B2B context of client-agency relationships.
Among the four key drivers of client excellence revealed through analysis of over 20,000 client-agency evaluations in the Aprais database, Behaviour is key. (Others are Briefing, Approvals and Timing).
In the context of client-agency relationships we define ‘Behaviour’ as:
Treating the agency as a professional business partner. Empowering them to challenge their client and propose more innovative solutions.Aprais
The chart compares agency scores of the best 10% of clients against the worst. The difference of agency rating of a client in terms of ‘Behaviour’ is a whopping +33%.
Read that as an additional 33% of value, just for being respectful and ‘nice’.
How vs. What
Our data proves that regular, constructive dialogue is critical to maintaining and growing a value-optimised B2B relationship.
We’re not suggesting for a moment that we start deploying such listening devices to alert us when our comments may be detrimental to a client-agency relationship (and hence impact the value derived from that partnership), but the principle is worth bearing in mind.
When it comes to relationships – whether personal or business, we don’t need artificial intelligence to tell us that “How” we say it, is just as important as “What” we say.