It’s that time of the year. Everyone has been hoarding their vacation days or paid time off just to take days off during the busiest time of the year for some eCommerce clients. Chances are that you’ll either be the person on the side of this that is taking some of your hoarded time to hit the road or the person left with all the work from the person hitting the road.

This situation has the potential to turn into a huge disaster. What if the client loses it that the substitute account manager (sub) isn’t as knowledgeable about their account as the regular account manager? What if the sub doesn’t catch a huge problem in the account and the agency is fired? What if a question or problem comes up in the account that the sub wasn’t provided the information for? All of these things could happen! It’s up to you to prevent them with planning and foresight with the items outlined below. This will ensure things go smoothly on either side of the vacation dilemma!

Weeks before vacation:

  • Ask for volunteers if coverage isn’t mandated by management.
  • Make sure the planned vacation is brought up to the client.
  • Forward the contact information of the sub to the client.
  • Action items should be assigned to the sub for the entire length of the vacation.
  • Any back logs of useful information on the account that may not be accessible to the sub should be forwarded.
  • The sub should review the account and all back logs of relevant data.

The key for the weeks leading up to the vacation is to ensure the client and the sub are 100% comfortable with the transition and that the person heading out has taken the time to think through everything that will need done on the account while they’re away.

Asking for volunteers is a nice way to let co-workers self-regulate account coverages. Hopefully people who have recently went on vacation will volunteer to pass the good fortune along by watching someone’s account. A willing sub is always nicer than a mandated one.

The client wants to feel like their account is in total control at all times. If all of a sudden they’re told their account manager is leaving and this person they may have never spoken with is their main point of contact for a bit, it could leave them feeling like things are running a bit haywire. It’s important to mention at the very least on the call before the last call before vacation that their account coverage will be changing for a bit. Don’t tell them too early, or they’ll just forget!

It’s a really easy mistake to make to think either “Oh, I’ll be checking in on things while I’m out” or “This account doesn’t need a lot of maintenance while I’m out, I don’t want to burden my co-worker”, and then proceed to not assign very many tasks to the person watching the account. This will lead to the client thinking their account isn’t being properly managed if they receive updates on action items, the sub will make it less of a priority if they get the feeling they don’t need to do much, and most importantly–the account manager will feel super stressed out when they get back with the backlog of stuff that needs to be done. So, don’t do this! Take the time to think of every single little thing that needs done in the account. Providing this list weeks in advance will give the sub time to ask questions and plan their time accordingly to get things accomplished on time.

Talking to the client about the vacation, having the account manager sit down and make a really thorough to-do list, and both parties reviewing all of the relevant data for the account weeks ahead of the vacation will leave all parties feeling prepared and stress free!

Right before vacation:

  • The sub should be at least be on the last regular client right before vacation time.
  • Action items and account information should be reviewed right before vacation time starts.
  • Emergency phone numbers including cell phone and any relevant hotel phone lines should be given to the person covering.
  • All account goals are discussed. I suggest printing something out to hang on the cubical wall.
  • The level of account oversight is discussed.

Preferably in the week right before vacation, there will be one last call with the client, so the sub can be introduced. This person will already have reviewed the to-do list for the vacation time period as well as have reviewed all the back log of information available on the client. We use Basecamp at Hanapin, but even a folder on a server somewhere with relevant reports, important emails, and important strategy notes will do. So, on the call, the sub should be able to really take value from the conversation. They can even ask any questions they have at this point, and the account manager is there as a buffer to ensure everything goes smoothly on this first call where the client is interacting with their sub for the first time.

Even though the to-do list was already given, right before leaving, it should be gone over one last time to make sure everything is crystal clear. I think it’s a good idea for the account manager to print the goals for the account off on a neat little piece of paper and tack it on the sub’s cubicle wall, t00.

One key thing that I feel is often over-looked is discussing the level of account oversight that’s needed. Does the sub have full reign to make decisions in the account? Should they just stick to your to-do list? Do they need approval from the client before changing certain items? Is the account manager comfortable with the sub pausing keywords on certain conditions? This needs to be discussed thoroughly, as it could make all the difference in how the account is changed and therefore performs during the vacation. If the account is super stable, it may be best to ask the sub not to stray from the list. But, if the account is new or unstable, it may be best for them to have more control in order to best put out any fires that come up while the account manager is gone.

On that note, don’t forget emergency contact information! I know, I know: no one wants to be called while they’re maxing and relaxing and told that their account is in the toilet and their client is in danger of firing them. But, it’s important to make sure there’s a fail safe in case this DOES happen. The sub should just be made super aware that it’s for serious emergencies only. Not even texting!

During Vacation:

  • The person covering should leave as detailed of notes as possible about every little thing for the vacationer.
  • To-do lists should be completed on time.
  • If strategy oversight was granted, the account should be checked as often and the sub’s own accounts.
  • If the account manager can find the time, especially if it’s a new/rocky client, a check-in call wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Again, we use Basecamp here at Hanapin, which makes it really easy to leave notes on to-do items and upload messages with data attached to them. But if this isn’t available,  a daily running log in Word should be kept for the account manager on vacation. This will allow them to backtrack any items, which is especially important in case some optimizations fail.

It’s easy for the sub to think this to-do list isn’t as important as their own clients’. But, we should all remember that we all go on vacation. We all will, at some point, need someone to watch our accounts for us. Golden rule time! Don’t do unto account managers as ye wouldn’t have done unto ye accounts. Something like that. Checking the account daily or more frequently if strategy or additional oversight from just the to-do list was granted is super important. Especially if the account is new or unstable!

Now, this part may be debated, but I think if the account manager has 10 minutes to spare, it might be a good idea to call the sub and check-in. It’ll let them ask any questions they’ve been dying to ask, but where respectful enough not to use the emergency line. It’ll also let the sub know that the account is important, and the account manger should also express gratitude on the call, letting them feel appreciated for all their hard work.

After Vacation:

  • Bring a souvenir for the sub if the vacation was somewhere out of town.
  • Schedule a time right after the vacation to have a casual chat about the account and how things went.
  • Have both the account manager and the sub on the first client call after the vacation.
  • The account manager should review notes from the sub and ask any questions right away.

To show appreciation, the account manager should most definitely bring a souvenir for the sub from their vacation destination. Our own British Sam Owen went to Britain for his wedding not too long ago, and I volunteered to watch one of his accounts. I now have a lovely little mustached queen’s guard sitting on my desk. It was just a nice way to say “thanks for all your hard work!”

As soon as possible after getting back, all the notes from the sub should be reviewed. That way any questions can be gone over, and the sub can get back to their normal work load as soon as possible.

I also think it’d be nice, especially in the case of new/unstable/longer vacation periods if both the account manager and the sub were on the first call after the vacation. That way any gaps in account coverage would be covered, and the client would feel like the transition between account coverage was totally seamless.

Hopefully following all of these items will leave you, your co-workers, and your clients feeling stress free during this crazy holiday vacation time. You all deserve a vacation, so make sure it doesn’t end up causing more stress than it’s supposed to relieve!