Agency Nightmares: Leeches

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If you own or have owned an agency at some point in your marketing career, you know about  leeches. But we’re not talking about the little bloodsuckers you find out in the wild. Leeches are an agency nightmare.

And the newer the agency, the more likely it is to have more leeches. Older agencies, having taken a few to the eye, typically know how to spot them and correct the issues as needed.

How To Spot A Leech

If you staff are managing their own clients, ensure you understand the amount of time being used for each specific client. If you have a set of project managers and record every hour worked on each client, then audit hours at random. You’ll quickly find monthly projects that are in the red. Now combine that information with some tell tale signs (you will have to pay attention to your staff here, they might not tale you until you seek out the information).

  1. Frustrated employee who’s always complaining about the client demanding more stuff
  2. This client is constantly being worked on, even when other projects are priority
  3. Staff is tied up in phone conversations for hours on end with the client explaining things not related to their project at all (some leeches love getting ‘training’ for free on other aspects of their marketing)
  4. Client is e-mailing/calling everyone in the firm, demanding different things from each person every week
  5. Bills are late or simply not paid, then client complains it is because they “don’t know what they are paying for” (sometimes you will be asked to provide a breakdown of hours and what was done, don’t fall for it, the scheme is simply to stall payment)

For projects with hours in the red, figure out how much you are losing money wise. For example, if your client is designated a certain block of hours in your contract, are you going over double? Triple? More? You need to know!

What To Do About It

“If you want respect, ask for it.”

– Tony Dygal

While clients are important, and so is customer service, the easiest way to deal with this type of situation is the following.

  • Bring the client into the office for a meeting
  • Provide a clear summary of measurable results your team has delivered
  • Provide a bill to the client for all the extra hours they are costing the agency
  • Explain that the charge can be waived but under certain conditions

While a bit cold, this approach sets expectations and more often than not, turns a leech into a great client. Here are the conditions!

    • Explain to the client that only one project manager should be contacted for any type of inquiry. Explain that e-mailing ten different people is not efficient, and in the future the client will be billed by time if they break the rules.
    • All requests outside of the contract will be billed on top of the current bill schedule.
    • Payments for projects are to be made on time, and if not, then projects stop until payment is made.

Clients interested in quality service will respect your rules (as long as you deliver what you promised).

 

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