Do you often get terrible service? Do outsourced projects constantly drag on past deadlines? Are vendor representatives impossible to reach and always take forever to get back to you? When was the last time you got a deliverable and thought, “They worked hard on this”?
If your answers are yeah, yes, definitely and never, you might be a bad client. Don’t get me wrong, there’s an increasing amount of awful service in the world. Due to burnout, poor training, bad days, broken software, runaway algorithms and worse reasons, bad service happens. It’s frustrating and can be detrimental to business.
On the flip side, what makes for a bad client? Everyone has ugly moments – both clients and service providers alike. We all have room for improvement.
Self-assessment / Traits to avoid
The following archetypes represent some of the worst traits that can crop up among clients.
We may have unique situations or seasons in our lives, but that does not mean we are so special that others should have to constantly chase us down to beg for the rare grace of our attention. If you agree to a project and expect good work from someone, it’s not unreasonable for them to expect a certain level of reliable access to you. If you can’t make time to collaborate, delegate or provide the feedback that a project requires, then don’t commit to that project. And definitely don’t expect stellar work completed on time.
If you have the time, expertise and desire to do a project yourself, by all means, do it yourself. When you delegate, subcontract or outsource, your role is choosing the right person or team for the job and giving them clear goals and parameters, so they can do the job you’re paying them to do.
I get it. Business is hard. It can make you jaded, if you let it. But you can choose to see the free market as a “Lord of the Flies” nightmare where the only rule is survival of the fittest, or you can choose to see it as a nuanced and complex system of interdependent human beings working to survive, find meaning and connect with each other.
If you don’t know what you want, then lead from a level on which you do know what you want. You may not know what color, size, model, style, features, etc., you want in something, but you can communicate in terms you do understand: a price point, conversion rate, number of leads or customers, an amount spent per customer, a sentence, a settlement, etc. As leaders, we don’t have to know everything and shouldn’t pretend to. At least be honest and communicate your needs, wants and boundaries as you understand them. A good service provider will help you succeed from there.
Good clients pay well and on time. They may be demanding, but they’re also gracious and understanding. A good client ensures you have all you need to do your job in a way that meets their clearly defined goals within their clearly defined parameters. They treat people as people, not pawns, and they are loyal to good service. They know what they can do, and they hire people they trust and support to do what they cannot do.
So, the next time you switch providers for the umpteenth time, maybe try looking in the mirror and asking what you can do to be a better client this time. The results may surprise you.
Gabriel Cassady is co-owner of creative agency 2 Oddballs LLC. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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