If you have been in the agency business for any amount of time and dealt directly with clients, you’ve found yourself facing at least one or two of these situations.
Client Has No Idea What You Do for Them
It’s important not just to be valuable to your clients, but to help them understand how much you actually do for them. If you incorporate the steps, skills, and tasks to accomplish the best results for clients, but seldom let the clients know; if you have done all of those little extras and you hear from a client that you failed at this or that nitpicky thing, it’s incredibly frustrating… You listen to the unreasonable, incorrect, and inaccurate portrayal of the real facts and try your damnedest not to explode.
Client Believes You Have the Golden Arches on Your Front Lawn
How about the client that says, “But I sent a website change to you this morning!” — fully expecting you and your staff to drop absolutely everything to deal with their issue. Or the client who regurgitates from the list of his email history, “Sent you XYZ last Tuesday and I never got a reply.” Well, Tuesday was yesterday, and the marketing work was significant. Not all functions happen with the snap of a finger. It’s important to set clear expectations with clients, and if a situation like this arises, remind them of what you agreed on and establish what you can do going forward.
Client Wants a Reduced Price Because You Didn’t Offer Bells and Whistles
This client tortured your staff, was abrasive and demanding. Unhappy people are sometimes unhappy when they wake up and think everyone is out to get them, or at least make their lives miserable. These are the clients that infect the culture, diminish creativity, and ultimately wind up with completed work that is exactly what they contracted for and nothing more.
You cannot change the spots on this leopard, so don’t even try. Getting involved in an email or phone battle only makes matters worse. Think out your responses beforehand, and if necessary, remember to employ meditation, yoga, prayers or other practice to keep your emotions in check.
When to Fire a Client
When you’ve done all you can to mitigate a difficult situation, it may be time to consider more drastic measures. I have heard many contemporaries talk about firing clients. When asked why, the universal answer was that the client was not worth the aggravation. Disruptive, anxiety-breeding, culture demons are the ones that walk themselves to the gallows.
But remember, clients are hard to come by. Each one is valuable to your company. You cannot fire them for being who they are, but you cannot allow them to run roughshod over you, your staff, or your company. Unreasonableness might make your days a bit rougher, but if you handle the situations that cranky clients throw at you, you will be better off and they will still be themselves. Just remember that when you onboard new clients, you have an opportunity to decide if they will be good for your company.
Of course you’ll want to have systems in place to prevent these situations. But process and procedures — no matter how thorough or vetted —are never 100% foolproof. As an agency owner, you must always respond to errors with swift and sensible solutions. Mitigating any real damage before it ruins a relationship is key. Generally, that will keep the cranksters at bay. Sadly, not always.
After you have done all you can do, you must decide whether the client is worth the trouble. Once you have made the determination to fire a client, you should act quickly — not in haste, but promptly. Be as courteous as possible, but pull the pin. You will be happier, your staff will thank you, and you can return to taking care of those accounts that understand your worth and commitment to them and appreciate it.
Forbes Agency Council member Greg Demetriou is the founder and CEO of Lorraine Gregory Communications He contributes content to business publications and has presented marketing seminars to businesses and organizations for over 25 years. He holds positions on several boards, participates in various community outreach programs, has a passion for helping nonprofit organizations expand their cause-related services and fundraise effectively.