What I should do if I lose an important account at my agency?

We all know when a well-known agency loses an important account: news comes out in the media with numbers of the lost revenue (millions and millions of dollars), the possible reasons for the loss, and what it means for the companies and agencies involved.

For any business, in the creative industries or not, loyal clients have been proven to be the most profitable. They not only consume more services, but also say good things about you and give outstanding recommendations of your service. In addition to that, retention costs are lower than the cost of attracting new clients, which can often offset the profits that this new account may generate in the short term.

If you have done everything to avoid losing an important account, but you have not succeeded, here are few tips on how to deal with this stressful situation.

  1. Find out what went wrong: Ask your team and your client about the reasons for losing the business. Some common examples are: price, missing deadlines, deliveries that didn’t match the expectations, and missing an important requirement for the project (click here for the top 3 reasons). Trying to figure out what your ex-client’s new agency offered your client that made them switch can provide some great insight into future retention efforts. It may be something that you want to match or build into your offering … or it may not be. A Personal call the client, asking smart questions (sometimes the real problem is hidden) will be worth your time. You may find that it was truly an issue with your team’s performance, or that this client wasn’t a fit.
  2. Prevent it from happening again: Now that you have identified the reasons for your loss, set up a plan with your team to correct the issue (if there was one) and avoid losing other accounts that you deem worth saving (click here for 6 Common failures and how to avoid them). At this stage it is necessary to lay out specific actions. Many things are simpler than you may have imagined, for example, creating new policies to meet deadlines or just reallocating recourses will often do the trick.  Also, talk to your Account Executives and find out which accounts are in the “risk zone”. What you cannot do is to procrastinate and let the problem get bigger.
  3. Say you are sorry: Only if you mean it of course! Call the client and ask him/her what you can do to mend the relationship. If there was a problem with a service deliveried in the past, think about reimbursing him/her for the time/money lost or ask if you can provide a future service at a discount rate or free. How you deal with difficult situations like this has a huge impact on your image in the market and sometimes is even more important than what has caused it. Therefore, take this opportunity to turn the tables. If there is nothing that you can do to save the account, and the damage is done, be honest with the client and send him/her a note with your signature (the more personal, the better) saying that you truly sorry, that you are working with your team to solve any internal problems, and that you hope to do business together again in the future. At least it is a “let’s still be friends” kind of break-up, preventing bad feedback spreading about your agency.

As my last takeaway:  Remember that although the client isn’t always right, how you deal these types of situations will speak a lot towards your brand and your team. You will also develop a better understanding of what types of clients fit with your agency culture and expertise.

Do the right thing and move on!

If you have been through this kind of situation and managed it well, feel free to share your insights.

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