So you’ve lost a client…

Stamp Your Feet Fella

As par for the course we all win and lose clients, it’s how business works, but how do you react when you do lose that all important client?

Do you:

a) fight to keep them onside,

Or do you

b) accept defeat gracefully, end the relationship on a positive note and hope to work together again in the future?

I assume most of you opt for b, keep the client happy. It’s the logical way to go and I’ll never understand why some people still choose to go down route a.

So a bit of background info: Company X has for many years been supplier for Company Y. Whilst Initially a good and prosperous relationship, it was felt that in recent times the level and quality of service weren’t living up to the standards they both expected and were paying for.

Because of this company Y decided to approach us and, after several meetings and discussions around the service we felt we could offer, it was agreed that we would take over as their supplier. Standard stuff and something I’m sure we’ve all experienced many times before.

As a sign of things to come though, when contacting company X to arrange the transfer of all the relevant material, they refuse point blank to converse with us and responded to all our attempts at contact with 2/3 word emails.

Fair enough, they’re rightly upset at loosing the client and unfortunately see us as the route cause for this. The client now steps in to act as an intermediary and subsequently starts to feel frustrated with both parties, essentially tarring us both with the same brush.

At this point everything has now been agreed and we’re waiting for the files to be sent to us.  A couple of weeks go by with both us and the client unsuccessfully chasing updates. It’s a little odd but rightly or wrongly the needs of an ex-client may not be top priority for Company X.

Then, out of the blue the client receives, at 4:45pm on a Friday afternoon by special delivery, a DVD containing all the files. Great, well great-ish anyway, with the disc there is a single sheet of paper, on it a message stating that their current hosting will be turned off at mid-day the following Tuesday (or high noon for the western fans out there). Bearing in mind that this is a bank holiday weekend, everyone’s left work early so no-one see’s the disc or realises it’s implications until the following Tuesday morning.

So now we’re in a situation where we need to make a 3 hour round trip to get the files, re-host the sites and somehow get it all done before mid-day. Not great but taking it on the chin we, against all the odds, manage to do it, everything’s up and ready for the domains to be swapped across . The clients over the moon, gives us the nod and we give Company X a call to initiate the transfer the domains.

At this point during the transfer process it’s standard practice to have the site hosted in two places at the same time, one at our end and one at company X’s end. This ensures that the domain is essentially changing from one live site to another, ensuring that from the user’s point of view there is no visible switch over or break in service.

Company X had other ideas though, rather than keep the site live and initiate the transfer process, they instead re-pointed the domain to their own website, then left it a day before initiating the transfer leaving Company Y without their biggest source of income albeit it only for a couple of days.

We all handle these situations in a different way, to my mind though, no matter which way you choose to handle the situation it should always have the clients interest at heart, regardless of whether they are a new customer or you’re losing them to another agency.

Rather than act in the clients best interest Company X decided to instead make the whole process as difficult as possible, timing the transfer to make it deliberately difficult and then imposing impossible time restrictions on to the whole process. As a result of their actions company X has effectively ended their relationship with Company Y in such a way that there is now no possibility of establishing a future relationship.

As is in any industry, reputation and word of mouth are King, why would you choose to damage yourself in this way when there is no need and nothing to be gained from it?

Every client will at some point be unhappy, have technical problems or suffer from the occasional dropping of the ball, it happens and it’s generally excepted. In my experience, if you take it on the chin, engage with the client, solve the problem as quickly as possible then go on to exceed their expectations, that client will almost certainly go on to become one of your biggest advocate.

I may have got this completely wrong but to me this seems an unethical way to do business.

Or am I being naive?

Has Company X been right to act the way they have?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this type of situation, leave your comments below.

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