How do you deal with challenging clients? Now, I’m not talking about the normal level of challenging, I’m not talking about clients who have high standards or clients who miss deadlines. I’m talking about clients who make people quit. I’m talking about clients who are unappreciative. I’m talking about clients who are mean and who communicate in a way that is disheartening to your team.
Sometimes, when an agency has this kind of client, this is an easy problem to solve when the client is small. But when the client is large when they are a good share of your AGI, this is a problem. If letting this client go because of their behavior would mean that you have to let go of staff as well, you have to reduce the team because they’re that important to the business in terms of money. Now all of a sudden, there are complications.
View Video Transcript
Hey everybody, Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute. This week coming to you from Scottsdale, Arizona. We were here with a peer group and one of the conversations that we spent a lot of time on was how do you deal with challenging clients? Now, I'm not talking about the normal level of challenging, I'm not talking about clients who have high standards or clients who miss deadlines. I'm talking about clients who make people quit. I'm talking about clients who are unappreciative. I'm talking about clients who are mean and who communicate in a way that is disheartening to your team. And oftentimes when an agency has this kind of client, this is an easy problem to solve when the client is small. But when the client is large when they are a good share of your AGI, this is a problem. If letting this client go because of their behavior would mean that you have to let go of staff as well, you have to reduce the team because they're that important to the business in terms of money. Now all of a sudden, there are complications. And so we talked about some ways to mitigate this kind of client. And so I know a lot of you deal with clients that are challenging, maybe not this challenging, but I thought some of them might be helpful. Number one, it is really important that the problem not stay in the AE hands, they can't solve this problem. This is an owner problem. You are choosing to keep this client in your roster probably because you're trying to save jobs. Maybe it's a marquee name, maybe you're hoping this particular point of contact will move on. But for whatever reason you are making a business decision to keep this sort of toxic relationship inside your agency. And you have to understand it is toxic and it's going to cost you people, it's going to cost you energy, it's going to cost you culture. But if for whatever reason you've decided, and I'm not saying I recommend that, but if for whatever reason you've decided to keep them, then you, as the agency owner, need to, number one, first go have a conversation with that client and talk to them about their behavior, about their language, might be a tone issue. It might be only an email problem. Some people are great in person, but they're terse in email, whatever it may be. You need to take concrete examples and talk to them and help them see how they're showing up for your team. If that doesn't work or it works for a week and then they're back to their old behavior, then you need to go to their boss and you need to ask for some help. So again, it's not tattling, it's not saying you're going to quit. You're just saying, look, we're having a hard time dealing with Drew. His communication style is really different than ours. Here's what's happening. Can you help me strategize ways that we can A, make Drew happy? Because that's what we want to do. We're doing good work, we're hitting deadlines, but there are things that are happening that clearly he's not happy with. So help us figure out how to communicate in a way that makes him happy. But B, is there something we can do together as a team to learn how to communicate better together in a kinder, more gentle way? I will tell you this, sooner or later one of two things is going to happen. When you keep a toxic client in your roster, one of two things is going to happen. Either one, that client you're just not going to be able to make them happy and they're going to fire you. Or number two, you're going to lose enough people and enough of the mojo in the office that you're going to end up firing them. So, part of this is mitigating the risk or the damage until it gets resolved one way or the other. But part of this is also recognizing that this is not sustainable long term and that you as the business owner need to step in and take control of this situation as best you can. And in some cases you have to become the AE because you have to put yourself in between you and your people. Your people are wondering why you're letting them be put in this position and you need to talk to them frankly and candidly and with data, about why you're doing it. Look, if we fire Drew, three people have to lose their job or this has to happen, or this has to happen. But help them understand why you're making this decision because on the surface, it's not a decision that they understand or makes sense to them. So this is a really sticky wicket that I know a lot of you are in. So hopefully that was helpful. All right, I'll see you next week.