How to lose a client

If you want to lose a client, follow these tips. If you don’t — learn from these tips about what not to do.

How to Lose a Client

Working with clients can be challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. I’ve been fortunate to work with clients for more than five years, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. I’ve also had the good fortune to learn from other companies that I’ve witnessed stumble — and sometimes crash and burn — when working with clients.

Here’s a little of what I’ve learned.

A little story

Sometimes our clients work with other vendors to provide services for their website. One of our clients was working with an online marketing firm to help bring visibility to the website we are helping to maintain.

My client is not hard to work with in the least, but she had already had a rough time with this firm. There had been some incidents of misunderstanding. Plus, she had been through three different account managers in 6 months. Needless to say, she was feeling a little frustrated when one day, THE INCIDENT, happened.

My client called me urgently because her company’s website was broken. It was in the middle of the day on a high-trafficked day, and apparently the latest account manager had been in the site administration and decided to update the plugins.

When we update plugins on a WordPress site or other platforms, we have a particular procedure. We test the updates on a staging site (if available), we backup the site, then we update the plugins slowly — one by one — making sure to backup and test in between each update.

In this case, there were no backups and obviously no testing. The result was missing navigation, broken posts and a lot of phone calls from peeved customers.

We were able to restore the site and perform the updates. In the meantime, my client — who does not anger easily — let the firm have it. She was so angry she had to cool off.

How to lose a client tip #1

Overstep the project agreement

It’s one thing to bring additional value to what you provide for a client. But it’s quite another  when the client specifically tells you not to do something. In the case of THE INCIDENT, the client had specifically told the online marketing firm not to touch the site without talking with her first, especially when it came to the site administration. This was not the first time the firm had overstepped its bounds. My client had many talks with them about talking with her BEFORE they made changes on the site. Unfortunately, they either didn’t listen or forgot to tell the new account manager.

How to lose a client tip #2

Overpromise and underdeliver

One of the biggest complaints I heard from my client was that she felt that the firm had not lived up to the promises they made. The firm had not promised page 1 rankings on Google (thank goodness), but they had said they could take care of fixing her company’s local listings and local maps pages (because there were hundreds). But after 6 months, maps listings were still messed up and the firm had failed to show it had made headway in correcting local listings. This caused a lot of frustration on the part of my client.

How to lose a client tip #3

Don’t ask for permission — ask for forgiveness

When it comes to clients, I tend to ask permission, rather than forgiveness, especially if the client is new to Standard Beagle. It might be different if we’ve had a long relationship. But if I’m working with a client I have not developed trust with yet — then I always ask permission first.

In the case of THE INCIDENT, the firm should have been able to tell that the relationship with my client was strained. Asking for permission to update the plugins probably would have avoided the site meltdown because it wouldn’t have happened. It may also have demonstrated respect for my client and improved the relationship.

So when they asked for forgiveness, there was none to give.

How to lose a client tip #4

Don’t communicate

The day after THE INCIDENT, my client called me to ask if I had created a new user for the firm. When I told her I had not, we both felt uncomfortable. What was the firm doing creating another user on the site? Why — one day after overstepping and breaking everything — would they be so bold? What was going on?

My client decided that was the last straw. She cancelled the account and for the next hour we changed every password and removed the company’s access.

The following day, the company’s vice president emailed and said he had created the user to avoid THE INCIDENT from happening again. Unfortunately, he didn’t bother to call my client to explain this BEFORE he created the user. His lack of communication only made matters worse, and the company lost the account.

How to lose a client tip #5

Betray trust

The relationship with a client all comes down to one thing — TRUST. A client needs to trust you. If you want a great working relationship — or at least a professional one — trust has to fuel the relationship. Betraying a customer’s trust is a violation, and you could very well end up losing the client.

My client has moved on to a new company. It’s a new relationship, but fortunately, the initial signs are promising. The new company is showing respect and appears to be working to develop trust with her. They get it — they understand how to lose a client… and they also understand what they should do to treat a client right so they don’t lose her.