5 ways agencies lose clients

Several years ago, I found myself working in a mid-sized interactive agency. I managed client marketing strategies and had a small team of developers and designers assigned to me.

Right before I was set to launch a new project with a major client, the client came with a small last minute request. I forwarded that email to my lead developer and asked him to do it so I could launch by the end of the day. He wrote back and said “The client is an idiot, but I’ll take care of it.”

To speed things up, he decided to let me and the client know at the same time that the work was done. By replying using the previous email string. The same one in which he called the client an idiot.

The now former client was not very happy about that.

Agencies lose clients for a variety of different ways, most less dramatic than my experience. In my experience of sitting on both sides of the agency relationship, I believe the reason clients leave is rooted in communication. Here are 5 key ways that I have seen agencies lose clients through either too much or too little communication.

Too much communication

 1) Lack of centralized communication

Agencies that I have seen thrive have a very clear point of contact with a client. This allows the agency to control the communication (which would have helped in the situation above) and helps the client know where to go for help.

A recent agency I worked with had a different point person for each stage of the project. About halfway through the project, I had no clue who was in charge of what. Ultimately, it led to the project being significantly delayed and us dropping the vendor for future projects.

2) Conflicting communication

Along the same lines of not having centralized communication, conflicting information will drive customers away in masses. This happens, like with the example in the last section, when you have multiple points of contact all trying to do their own thing. It also can happen with overworked or unorganized project managers communicating messages they either don’t remember or don’t follow up on.

3) TMI (too much information)

The last way too much communication can cost you clients is telling the client too much information. I’ve seen this happen a number of ways. First, I have seen agency workers become disgruntled and share their feelings with a client. This never ends well, for the record.

Second, and often more dangerous, is letting information about other clients slip. This can be anything from what a competitor is doing to sharing details about an upcoming project. Either way, it always scares customers about what type of information you let slip about them.

Too little communication

4) Unresponsive

First in the way of too little communication is the classic case of an agency not being responsive. We as agencies get really busy sometimes. Your project managers are handling 25 clients a day and have to frequently balance which client is left out in the cold on any given day. From the client perspective, their money demands your time, no matter how big or small that money is. This is the primary reason I have seen clients leave agencies.

5) Vague information

A little less dramatic, but equally costly, is vague communication with a client. This usually comes from the same causes as being unresponsive. Often it is an agency trying to maintain minimum communication with a client while managing too many other projects. It often makes the client feel unimportant and unappreciated.

Any of these 5 communication issues that can cost an agency a client are often manifested in other forms. It can be a client upset about a project not moving quickly enough when in reality they had conflicting information about a finish date or have no sense of project status due to lack of communication.

The trick for agencies is to actively manage communication. This is making sure the communication channels are set up properly and you have enough client management staff to handle the number of customers.

Greg Henderson
Post by Greg Henderson

Greg Henderson is a digital marketing professional. He specializes in transforming traditional marketing departments into the digital era. He currently works with a digital agency focused on transitioning traditional trade publications into digital content sites.

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