How to end a client relationship
This post is especially important for agency partners who are striving to build and maintain business with a client. It’s written from my vantage point as the “client”, and summarizes my thoughts on ways to successfully end a client relationship, obviously a list of “what not to do”. Certainly each should be avoided if you intend to retain a client’s business.
Reflecting on 2012, I have a lot to be thankful for and proud of. However an experience I had during this year (unfortunately it wasn’t a good one) prompted this post. I wanted to be sure to capture these points because it’s my belief that from difficult situations, lessons can be learned if you’re willing to be open to debriefing, discussing and sharing to avoid repeating them in the future.
A bit of perspective, I spent several years in the beginning of my career on the agency side of the business. I’d like to think that having done so makes me a more reasonable client, one who knows and appreciates the in’s and out’s of agency operations and one who knows it’s critical for clients to provide clear direction. I always strive to be clear with requirements, limitations and overall direction throughout each initiative. I’m also deeply committed to delivering successful programs and believe that strong partnerships are key to that success.
How to end a client relationship:
- Have your agency’s goals for profitability outweigh your client’s objectives
- Lose sight of the fact that the client actually hired you, you didn’t hire the client.*
- Be unclear about your terms of service
- Bill for services not rendered
- Believe that the ideas you put forth in your engagement are in the end too valuable to allow your client to implement without changing the terms in your contract
- Not recognizing and respecting your client champions
- Creating issues your client champions have to escalate to their management, legal or procurement
- Not responding to client change requests swiftly and in a way that proves to your client that their goals are paramount and you will help them achieve them even if changes in scope are presented along the way
- Not providing change orders promptly when the scope of the project is adjusted
- Not adapting to new client players and understanding if a new client player is now a key decision maker for a component of the program overseen by the client champion
- Leaving your client without receiving what they expected to be delivered
- Not being clear about what will be delivered
- Not being clear about when delivery will happen
- Not recognizing that clients are influential too, they have relationships with other business units, other agency partners and industry associations which could be used as channels to express their dissatisfaction
- Not realizing that being difficult to work with out weighs the benefit and value of the work delivered, no matter how creative it may be
* Clients hire agencies on a “work for hire” contract or retainer basis. Clients document requirements & relationship terms of delivery in scope of requirements documents as well as base agreement which stipulate terms of the contract – work for hire.
I’d be interesting in knowing what you think and if you have other thoughts on this topic, please post your comments.