I’ve been working with clients for over ten years now…
During which time I’ve learned there are three crucial steps that have to be taken to ensure a long and happy client-agency relationship.
Obviously there are multiple ways to maintain good relations but, for me, the most important steps, above all others, are setting realistic expectations, documenting them and communicating them from the very beginning.
If you do this from the start of a project there will be no nasty surprises for either party and you will quickly develop trust – the magic ingredient for a long and happy relationship.
Put your cards on the table; explain how you work, all charges, exactly what’s included and when it will be delivered. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver, honesty is always the best policy and crucial to building that trust.
Create a specification
Always provide a detailed specification to show exactly what will be delivered and who will be responsible for delivering each element. If requests for work outside of the spec are made there is no uncertainty as to whether they are included. At a minimum, the specification protects the client from under-delivery and the agency from over-delivery, at its best it provides a solid starting point for ongoing development of a project.
Communication is key
So, expectations have been set and everyone is happy. The specification has been drafted, commented on, redrafted and agreed. It’s tempting at this point to think the job is done, please don’t make this mistake. It has really only just got going. Happiness and longevity is now, much like in any relationship, about communication.
Keep up a regular touch point (weekly / monthly) with all of your partners. This has to be at the very least on the phone. We are a digital agency, everything we do aims to bring businesses online and grow them that way. That doesn’t mean we want to dehumanise business. It’s vital to speak to your partners on the phone, it’s even better if you can have regular face-to-face meetings. I keep mentioning it, trust is much easier to build and maintain through open dialogue. It is much harder to read somebody’s mood via email, this can create issues that can be easily avoided with the human touch.
Sometimes there won’t be much to say, don’t let this put you off from having your regular call. Get to know your partners – what they did on the weekend, where they like to eat, what sports they like and whether they have a family.
None of this is rocket science but in the middle of the week when you are drowning in emails and need to produce three specifications by 3pm on a Friday it’s easy to forget. It’s at that very point that these three steps are so important to follow – you’ll be surprised at how forgiving and accepting people will be if you are realistic with them and communicate any situations early enough. Especially as you remembered their partners birthday was on the weekend and congratulated them on their sons Sunday league win the week before.
It’s a cliche, but aren’t most of the powerful lessons? Treat others like you want to be treated yourself.