Several months ago we won a very large piece of business from an existing client. It was exciting work for my agency and was a great way to end the year.
This particular client had gone through major restructuring throughout our two-year relationship and we were for the most part working with new leadership. So I was excited when I sat down with them to talk about how this project would run.
Bob (not his real name), who oversees the division we work with, had obviously thought about how he wanted to kick off this project. He said, “Over the past few years we know we haven’t been an easy client to work with. We’ve had major changes in our staff, our IT restrictions make work difficult, and sometimes I think the people who used to be here didn’t always value the agency relationship.”
He went on. “This is going to be the start of a new relationship. We are completely committed to making sure this project is successful. In order to help you do that we will speak every week, sometimes in person and sometimes on the phone, and when we talk we’ll be open and honest about any problems going on with the project. And you have my word that when my side is causing any problems, I will address it head on.”
This was very refreshing to hear and I was excited about the new start. This is obviously the way you want all client relationships to start, but the reality is not many clients or agencies are confident enough to be completely open with each other. Typically clients aren’t bashful about letting the agency know when it has made a mistake, but asking to be told when they are making mistakes is something altogether new. Plus, we’d have to see if he really would take care of the problems; talking tough is one thing but decisive action is always the key.
After about a month into the project a problem arose. We were having difficulty with a particular area on the client side (sorry, can’t get into the details, but let’s just say there was a roadblock we couldn’t overcome). After speaking with Bob about this, he simply said, “We’ll take care of it.” I found out the next day that the problem had been removed, just as he had promised.
This open and honest line of communication has made a tremendously positive impact on the work we’re doing with this client. And now, heading into 2009, we are looking to model all of our client relationships after this one. The key is starting off with an understanding that both sides will be open and honest, and then taking action to resolve any issues.