A couple of weeks ago, one of my clients asked me to help her get her web development agency to move forward and fix a couple of problems that we’d been discussing with them. Originally when I brought the issue to the web agency’s notice, I was told these were such little changes they wouldn’t be a problem. Fast forward three months and nothing (even allowing for Christmas). So the client and I had a teleconference with said agency and again told it wouldn’t be a problem and that they’d come back with a solution.

Fast forward another three months – and still nothing except assurances. Every conversation with this agency over the last six months had been driven by the client and/or I. When they finally came back after yet another email from me outlining again what needed to be done, they came back with a quote to fix the ‘no problem’ issues that suddenly ran to potentially $2000. From my perspective, acting on behalf of my client – that was very grumpy making!

So what was it that was needed?

  • To change the colour of the site’s text to black (it was grey)
  • To change the colour of the main text container background to white (it too was grey – hmmm grey on grey. That change was required because web conventions say sites should be designed for maximum accessability/readability).
  • To add a blog widget (important for every site)
  • To add a twitter api (also important if the client is active on twitter)
  • To add social share and connect buttons – an absolute requirement
  • They’d also written the header banner in flash. Quite pretty, yes, a little busy but pretty nevertheless. However, it doesnt work on ipads/iphones’. And almost no-one designs in flash for exactly that reason. And the client targets business owners moving from micro to SME status (the fastest growing sector for ipads) so that was a big no-no.

When I asked for a breakdown of time, I was told it would take 30 mins EACH to change the font and background colours and an hour for the twitter api. Which, to anyone who’s ever hung out in the back end of a website knows that the first two are 1 minute jobs at best and the twitter api maybe 5- possibly 10 if you’re playing around with a colour palette for a bit. All of which made me question the rest of the time allowed for fixes. I was told the extra time allowed for cross browser checks – for 3 lines of code. Really? REALLY??

Let’s sort this on a teleconference

So when the client and I had a teleconference with the head of the agency in question, she was told that in essence it was her fault, not once, but many times. They blamed her for a design that didn’t work, requesting they use flash, not following up with them, losing emails and not answering phone calls. It was horrifying. When I mentioned the timings on what they’d suggested were excessive,

They told me if I knew what I was doing, I could always go into the backend and do the fixes for them. It would be quicker and cheaper that way – Really??? EXCEPT that my client would still have to pay for it!!!

It wasn’t until I mentioned that I too came from an agency background of almost 20 years and none of this was really appropriate and I too had had the same issues with their account manager not following up, not getting back on promises, not sending necessary documents, NEVER calling me – despite the fact that she put out there that she called the client every week (WOW – show me those time logs!!) that the client got any movement in her direction.

So what’s the lesson?

There are plenty of cowboys out there who can hang a shingle, outsource code writing/struggle through it themselves or vaguely work the technology and call themselves a web design agency, social media agency, marketer, etc. BUT and it’s a big but – working the technology is NOT what you’re paying for.

Marketing, digital & PR agencies – what you’re actually buying

What clients like you are actually paying for, is someone who understands what you’re trying to achieve by using (insert shiny technology or sexy marketing tool here), who you’re trying to reach and how you’re going to reach them. In order for someone to do that, they need to have a real background in marketing or PR or market research or something similar.

And when it comes down to it, to advise clients on strategies to move their businesses forward regarding WIIFM principle marketing and have the experience to have hard, sometimes confronting conversations with them, are things that only come with time spent in the chair.

Time in the chair has taught me that once appointed by a client, to apologise in advance for the fact that they’ve asked me to do a job and should it be required, I will stalk them (nicely of course) until I get what’s required to move forward/get approvals, etc – or until they tell me to stop.

There is no room for blaming the client – EVER! Sure, almost everyone in business has a whingey-esque client at some point, but you suck it up and do the job and then maybe sit down afterwards and ask yourself how you contributed to that happening in the first place.

But frankly, I’ve been working with this client for more than 6 months and I’m happy to go on record to say I’ve found her anything but – she’s absolutely delightful to work with.

So anyway, now we wait (again) and see what the agency comes back with as a solution to fix the client’s problem. They’ve promised to come back next week. I love promises but I like results better – as do my clients.

Stay tuned – I’m sure there are more lessons on this one coming soon.


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