Do you subscribe to the old adage that "the customer (or client) is always right"? My agency team and I had a recent client experience which forced us to challenge this notion.
I am used to dealing with difficult clients and difficult personalities - it's an accepted part of an Account Manager's job. I was not, however, prepared to deal with a person who conducted business in a somewhat "unhinged" manner. Let's call this person "Miss X".
We were asked by Miss X to prepare a suite of collateral for an upcoming event. The timeline was tight, but we agreed we could complete the work if certain parameters were met by both Miss X and our agency.
We knew that Miss X was opinionated, unpleasant, changeable, indecisive, abrupt and not afraid to speak her mind (remind you of other clients you know?). However, we released the fury of Pandora's Box when we presented a video concept that Miss X did not like. In exchange for meeting Miss X's brief and budget our account management and creative teams received verbal abuse to the point where Miss X made one of our team members cry. Unfortunately, this was the icing on the cake of similar (though less explosive) dealings with Miss X.
The Mother Bear in me wanted to protect my team from further abuse and kick this client to the curb immediately - project unfinished. However, I knew we needed to assess the situation as objectively [cough] as possible, so we called an emergency team meeting.
Putting our incensed feelings aside, we asked ourselves some tough questions:
After our analysis we could see that the situation was neither clear-cut, nor all Miss X's fault. There were parts of the process that we could have handled better, but that still did not excuse the appalling and unjustified treatment that our team received.
We decided to finish the suite of collateral that we had promised to create. The consensus was that the potential for negative word of mouth was not worth jeopardising our reputation. Besides that, we wanted to make sure we got paid every cent that we were owed!
The revenue from this client is neither large nor regular. The jury is out whether we'll agree to work with this client again. If (and it is a big if) we did, we would radically change the way we worked with this client:
Though it's a last resort, there will occasionally come a time when your customer/client is so objectionable that it's in your team's best interest to cut them loose. After all, our agency (unfortunately) doesn't get paid "danger money"!
Have you, or your colleagues, had any experiences with "extreme" clients?