The unhappy client: How to fight back and keep the business

By: Malcolm Brown

Historically, there have been unavoidable situations that test an agency's client relationships. Today, there are tools that can minimize, or even eliminate these threats.

As an example, one situation that plagues all relationships is the unexpected surge in project cost.

Its an old story. You send your client an invoice that is 30% higher than the estimate. The client goes nuts. Your response is that the copy was changed thirteen times in two days. And THEN there were the layout changes . . .

Nobody is happy. Your client really doesn't think they made all those changes, and after-all, you're told, it should have been right the first time.

So now you have to recreate all the time records and find all the copy versions. You discover that because things were happening so fast, vital information never made it into the traffic system or on to a conference report. Plus, you have to go through the emails of multiple agency people to see who said what to whom.

The result? You give-up and figure out exactly how much of your hard-earned revenue you are willing to sacrifice to keep the client happy.

This cycle is repeated everyday in agencies everywhere.

Which leads us to the central proposition:

How an extranet can make you rich, and keep your client happy

Let's look at this same scenario at an agency that uses an extranet.

You send your client an invoice that is 30% higher than the estimate. Along with the invoice, you send a copy of all the comments, requests, and approvals made by the client.

Time spent creating the report: 90 seconds.

Quality of the evidence: irrefutable.

Net result: you get paid, the client realizes their mistake, and everybody is happy.

This sounds way too good to be true.

Maybe. But it's not. A client extranet automatically organizes all the comments, requests and approvals made by your client, your staff and your vendors. Not only that, it also compiles a complete record of who saw what, when the saw it, and what they did with it. All the information is in one place, and can be available to anyone at any time.

Entries into the extranet can be made by any user at any computer, 24 hours a day. And everyone with an interest in the project can be notified and see all the entries immediately.

The bottom-line is that having a complete record of what everyone did and when they did it can be the saving grace. It can save time, save money and save your sanity. Most importantly, it can save your relationship. All it takes is the implementation of a client service extranet.

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