Back in the day I used to work in the mental health field. Yup, I was a “Certified Addiction Counselor” and spent my day hanging out with addicts all day long. It was a really fun job actually, met a lot of really great people.
One really interesting thing that fascinated me was how they handled problem clients. For instance, let’s say a client had issues beyond the scope of the center they were in. The center would then “refer them out” to another treatment center that is more appropriate for their needs.
It always amazed me how well this worked, and how selfless this act was. Sure, the administrators could have sucked some more money out of that client but they actually cared enough to sacrifice themselves.
When Not To Fire Your Client
One of my biggest pet peeves are consultants who complain about their clients. As a matter of fact, one of my 2014 New Years Resolutions was to not complain about client related issues anymore. My thinking is “If they annoy you so bad, don’t take their money.”
Your Clients ‘Annoy You’
Your job as a consultant or an as agency is to learn to adapt to new personalities & people. It is not your clients job to guess what mood you will be in or figure out when the best time to call you. Our clients pay us a fair wage, so if your client is ‘bothering you’ then it is your job to deal with it and suck it up.
They Want to Spend Less
Like it or not, some clients run into bad financial times. When this happens, don’t take it personally. Work with them. Chances are they will tell their friends, colleagues and family how great you are and referrals will trickle in like sweet nectar of the gods.
Your Clients ‘Don’t Get It’
It is your job to educate your clients on what you are doing / selling / providing. Clients aren’t born with the 2-8 years of college education or equivalent that we’ve gained over the years. You sold them on your model, now it is your job to answer their questions and to educate them on what it is you are doing for them.
Letting Go of Your Clients
Nothing is harder than letting go of a client that you’ve had for a long time. We must all recognize that there might come a time when this has to happen. Here are a few of those instances:
They’ve Outgrown You
This is one of the most difficult decisions one can make as a consultant or an agency. In an example scenario, the client has scaled up to the point where they need dedicated employees that you are not able to provide. Is it ethical to hire new employees and use their hard earned money as a “testing ground” for your new clients? There is a difference between needing to scale, and being completely outnumbered by your client. If you find that you just can’t keep up with the workload, can’t respond to communications, and are generally unhappy with the work you are putting out then it is time to refer your clients to another client or an agency.
Maintaining active relationships with other agencies and consultants can be a great way to receive reciprocal referrals as well. Find a few agencies and consultants that hold the same quality standards that you do, but work at a higher volume and establish a relationship with them. Not only is it great client-karma to refer your clients to another agency when you are at capacity but it will build a great relationship with another company that one day might save you!
Being Abusive or Unethical Behavior
We’ve run into several situations where we have had to part way with our clients due to this type of stuff. I won’t cite any examples, even though they might be really entertaining but it has happened.
Actually…Never Fire Your Clients
That’s right, it is bad business to outright fire a client. If you have decided there is no other way and you must part ways with your clients then you should really refer them to a more appropriate agency. Take these steps:
- Start by talking to the agency you will be referring them to and ask them if they are in fact willing to take on this client.
- Have “the talk” with your client and let them know the reasons why it isn’t working out anymore.
- Let them know about the agency you are referring to, give them a contact there, and let them know why they would be a better fit.
- Gather all resources / project management material for the client and package it up nicely for the agency you are referring to.
Our goal with any client is for them to have a positive experience with us. If we find that we absolutely cannot provide a positive experience then it is time to look elsewhere.