Clients are the backbone of any creative or web design agency. A client is more than just a source of revenue — they provide referrals and ties to the business community. Treat one client well, and more will follow. Let ego or indifference get in the way, and you may lose more than just the one client. All it takes is one mistake to send your client running to a competitor. There are several different ways to lose a client, but, being attentive, diligent, and utilizing customer service best practices will help you avoid these 9 common mistakes.
1. Show up to meetings unprepared
The number one reason for meeting with a client is to keep communication channels open. If you show up unprepared, you are communicating a lack of respect — that you don’t care enough about their project to undertake a few basic preparations. Being unprepared is easy. Don’t bring anything to take notes. Don’t bring anything to review. And, don’t read the agenda. Just sit there and feign a smile while the client rambles on. You got this.
2. Pay no attention to their business
Creative and web design agencies are hired to assist in communicating a message. This requires learning about the client’s business and its customers. You have to know who you are talking to, and on who’s behalf. If you ignore the audience your work will be irrelevant and self-serving, which the client will quickly pick up on. Ignoring you client’s business is just as easy as flunking out of school — don’t do your homework.
3. Never compromise your vision
A good agency knows how to incorporate client feedback into a project. Most client’s won’t have a strong design background, but that doesn’t make them wrong. It’s easy to discredit and ignore design ideas coming from the client. It’s far more difficult to listen and compromise, and to leverage client feedback into better work. You can be right, or you can be employed.
4. Be slow to respond
Clients want an attentive agency that listens and responds in a thoughtful and timely manner. This doesn’t mean you drop everything to work on their request. It means you acknowledge them by replying to the email or returning the phone call. Communication is the key to a successful client relationship.
5. Do mediocre work
Mediocrity will not only lose you clients, it will lessen your agency’s reputation. No client wants to hire an agency who’s work is just “good enough.” They want you to invest your passion and drive into their project. Mediocrity and apathy go hand-in-hand. Do average work and the client will know you don’t really care about them or their project. And they’ll have no problem looking elsewhere next time. Good enough is never good enough.
6. Steal for them
Appropriating someone else’s work and passing it off as your own is a terrible offense. Doing it on behalf of a client jeopardizes both your reputations, and can cost you a job. You would think this goes without saying, and yet, it still happens. Do honest work and save yourself, and your client, the hurt and embarrassment of copyright infringement.
7. Use unlicensed creative
If you use stock photography, music, or video, remember to pay for it. Using unlicensed media will result in legal issues when the copyright holder discovers it. There is an entire industry based on searching the web for unlicensed media and charging large fees for retroactive licensing. Avoid the legal hassle and purchase licenses for all third-party media.
8. Throw in some additional fees
Full disclosure and transparency regarding the contract payment schedule and fees is the best way to build trust with a client. But, if additional fees do arise, don’t tell the client about them until the end of the project. Then don’t turn over any work until they pay up. Demanding a ransom from your client is a great way to send them off seething. Your next meeting might just be in court.
9. Promise a Ferrari, deliver a Yugo
It’s easy to get excited and over promise when first working with a client. Make sure that everyone on your team is familiar with the project scope outlined in the contract. All it takes to undermine a project is one unrealistic promise. On the flip side, don’t under deliver. Your agency should exceed the client’s expectations.
Photo credit: Shinichi Sugiyama