How To Keep Demanding Clients Happy at Creative Agencies
Read time: 5 minutes
As we are in the client services business, we interact with many different clients every day, week, month, and year.
Most of our clients are great. Sure we have our favourites, and we always end up having an odd client or two, but the most challenging client is the demanding client.
Before we go further in this article, we are not advocating putting up with a bully or abusive client. If you are unsure whether your client is a bully, you can refer to this article on bullying in the workplace.
For this blog, we are assuming the client is demanding and fair but that the demands or the strong personality of the client may be intimidating or make you or your team feel like there is more emotional energy needed part to interact with the client.
Agency clients may be difficult from day one, or they may have gotten more difficult over time. To describe “difficult,” this could mean:
• Always has questions about our work…many questions
• Rarely satisfied
• Won’t accept anything that isn’t 110%
• Doesn’t’ let us off the hook at any time
The secret is that often these demanding (but fair) clients help us to raise the bar on our own work. Typically, though, that is something we realize after the project is over when hindsight is 20/20 and we’ve had a chance to reflect on the experience.
However, if you are in the thick of working with a demanding client or just came from pitching one that very well may be your next new agency client, here are three realistic tips for you and your team to turn this potentially daunting experience into one you could possibly thrive because of.
1. Deal with the elephant – you know if the client is tough. He/she is tough on you, and you run the place. Can you imagine how your team feels after interacting with this client?
Let your team know that you are aware that XYZ is a demanding client. This acknowledgment can make your team breathe a sigh of relief and vent a little bit if they need to. In this way, you can show your support for your team, making an effort to service the client professionally and at the high level that won you their business in the first place.
You may also want to help your team out with some interpersonal skill training or training around boundaries so that they feel that they can handle what may be a challenging project, but they feel like they are equipped and supported to do so.
2. Sophisticated clients are interested – if your client weren’t interested in the work your company is doing for them, they wouldn’t attend the meetings or pay you any attention. Having a client interested and emotionally invested in your work is a great thing. Questions about your work, your process, and why this and not that, while potentially annoying to you, are helping your client to understand what all goes into the work they are asked to review or approve.
Take this as an opportunity to show off your and your team’s knowledge of typography, website builds, the history of marketing, analytics charts – whatever it may be. Sophisticated clients like to work with a sophisticated team. This may be the opportunity for your team to really show off their knowledge and expertise and make the client happy.
3. A call to do your best work – we all know that some projects are just done (as in the “done is better than perfect” phrase) and out the door. Then we know there are those projects where you really pushed it, and the client and your team came away with outstanding work. Use this as an opportunity to raise the bar with your team.
Meet as a team and decide that you’ll dial it up just a little bit. So for this client, everyone needs to log into their Zoom client meeting 5 mins early, the agenda needs to be out 24 hrs in advance, the work needs to be provided with a follow-up call, whatever the extra (as in extra effort, not “over-servicing”) that is needed that would separate an A player from the rest, do that. These ideas will be possible for any agency to implement, no matter your focus. If your demanding client feels even a bit more cared for, you can win, and they may back off with their demanding nature as they now feel your team is way ahead of them (actually where they want you to be – they want you to lead them).
If this seems like too much, take a hint from what some of the most creative companies in this world do to make their demanding clients happy – raise the bar. Think of luxury hotels or the Top 100 restaurant list – those teams go above and beyond daily for the most demanding clients. And you know what happens? They get repeat business! And they charge handsomely for it.
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