Though all client/agency relationships will have highs and lows, it is important to maintain a mutual respect and understanding during the good times and bad. This is typically accomplished through good communication, clearly defined deliverables, and a complete understanding of budgets. However, even when an agency covers all of these bases, a difficult client's actions can have a deleterious effect on the relationship. When you've tried everything and still feel like you're getting nowhere, it might be appropriate to ask yourself, "Is it time to resign the account?"
Here are six signs that your client relationship might be on the skids. If plagued by one or more of them, it might be time to shake hands and part ways.
1. Your client is not paying for the work being done.
Any service organization is entitled to be paid for the services being rendered. If your client doesn't have enough respect to pay you for your work in a reasonable amount of time or you constantly have to chase them to get paid, the relationship might not be worth the trouble.
2. Your client is not listening to your opinion.
The agency world's success is based on providing quality input, objective points-of-view and candid counseling. If your client asks you for your opinion but chooses to never listen; or, even worse, stops asking for your advice or listening to input, then it might be time to end the relationship. This is the sound of a death knell in any consulting relationship, as they hire you for your expertise.
3. Your client is beginning to disrespect your team members.
In the consulting world, the only real assets you have to sell are your services, creative ideas, and your people. If your client lacks professional courtesy or is in any way disrespectful to your team, then you owe it to them to resign the business. I have long believed that you gain incredible currency from your team when you defend them to a client, particularly when they are doing a good job.
4. Your client is being dishonest.
The success of any relationship is based upon honesty and trust. If your client is asking you or your team to do something that is either unethical or immoral, then it is absolutely time to walk away. Communicating something, internally or externally, that you are certain is inaccurate or untrue is a formula for disaster. Never get strong-armed into doing what you know is inappropriate, regardless of how much you are being compensated.
5. You continual over-servicing of the account.
All consulting relationships are based upon compensation for services rendered. If you have negotiated an appropriate fee for a clearly specified scope of work, then you owe it to your organization to walk away from the relationship if the client is not willing to pay for overages, yet expects your team to over-service the account. By continual acceptance of over-servicing your client, you create a monster that can never be tamed.
6. You're not meeting client expectations.
Though you may have done a good job of delivering on the agreed-upon scope of work, there are times when you just can't make your client happy with the results and they continue to expect things that are either unreasonable or well beyond what the budget warrants. You should always try to manage this from the onset of the relationship, but sometimes expectations can never truly be kept in check. If that's the case, it could be time to just walk away.
Though I would never encourage an agency to walk away from a client relationship that it worked so hard to secure, sometimes the relationship simply isn't salvageable and the time and energy spent on trying to keep it alive would be best served on other clients or chasing new ones that are a better fit.