working towards great client service

Bad client is an illness for agency, and like other illness it has to be cured

By Hieu, Nguyen

Illness’s origin

Once upon a time, an advertising agency treated their client like a King. And everything went down- hill as the King became a Tyrant. Although the Tyrant paid them well but he also drove them nuts with his arrogant behavior and unreasonable demands. Despite trying to be all things to satisfy the Tyrant, they can’t do anything to escape the trauma. And so the illness was born, and the agency was the suffocator.

But unlike the tale, in reality agency has solution to ultimately free themselves from bad clients, which is to fire them. You need to know what your client’s want before satisfying their needs (Solomon 2008) but it’s impossible when your client’s values don’t align with yours.

It’s all about making decisions

Just like the tale above, we often choose revenues over peace of mind, but it doesn’t work well, does it?  If you chose so, you potentially risk your joy of working in the next few months. I asked Ms. Dieu Anh- CEO at Aiim Education Center, Is dealing with difficult & bad clients increasing your skills as a client manager? If so keep running business with them is beneficial instead.  Unfortunately, part of being a good manager is to be a visionary leader, take on actions that prioritize and exceed the whole organization’s benefits, not your personal-self (Frances. W & Henry. M 1989).

Figure 1: Reproduced from Forbes (2012)

What if you invest much time on clients that don’t appreciate your creative work, who delays on schedule and changes their mind in last minutes? Those things would eventually lessen the profit making and work efficiency of your team. Running a successful business requires values-driven consistency (Venkatraman. N and Gordon .W 1986, Jim F cited in Erika.N 2013). According to Dieu Anh in order to maintain values consistency, we first have to look inward and identify our values, then seek employees, and clients based on those similarities because we most likely to collaborate well in long term with them. It’s important to find good clients because they give us referrals to other good clients.

The disease can spread

Figure 2: Reproduced from Alobacsi (2011)

Despite the rapid growth of the communication industry in Vietnam, the industry remains relatively small and neat- community, hence industrial information can be spread quickly and uncontrollably to support other agencies (Dieu Anh 2013). One of the supports is providing “Blacklist Clients” through words of mouth among industry people. These Blacklist clients are confirmed as trouble-makers who are lack of credibility and professionalism to corporate with. Often agencies will be aware of those clients, and they rarely partner with them. Therefore, bad clients will find it hard to work with professional agencies next time.

Time to vaccinate

In case you’ve already worked with a bad client try to educate them as an approach to reverse them into the good one, because part of partnership is to proactively engage and prosper mutual expectation (Beverland, M., Farrelly, F. & Woodhatch, Z. 2007, AdExchanger 2009).

Figure 3: Reproduced from SIX Revisions (2011)

Broken down in steps:

  1. Define the problems: Identify what has gone wrong, what seems to unchain your agency with that client.
  2. Talk to client: taking client’s perspective in account and have a face to face conversation with them to address the situation. Don’t blame each other, but demonstrate what can be solved and worked out of this.
  3. Draft a plan: rework a new strategic plan and have them signed on, so that the responsibility is on both sides.

Remember that some clients suck but it doesn’t mean that you let them suck out the life of your agency. Simply says “goodbye” when the situation is headed negatively.

Figure 4 : Author and Interviewee ( provided by author 2014)

words count: 616
Author: Nguyen Quoc Hieu (s3360646)
Interviewee Info:
Dieu Anh (2013) – Pham Thi Dieu Anh – CEO at Aiim Education Center


AdExchanger 2009, ‘Agency War Plan: Educate or Fire your Client’, July 6, Ad Echanger articles, viewed on Jan 9 2014,

Beverland, M., Farrelly, F. & Woodhatch, Z. 2007, “Exploring the Dimensions of Proactivity within Advertising Agency-Client Relationships”, Journal of Advertising, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 49-60.

Erika. N 2013, ‘Why you should fire some clients’, Nov 28, Entrepreneur articles, viewed on Jan 9 2014,

Frances. W & Henry. M 1989, ‘Visionary Leadership & Strategic Management’, Journal of Stragetic Management, vol.10, special issue, p.17-32.

Solomon, R 2008, The Art of Client Service, 1st edn., Kaplan, New York.

Venkatraman. N and Gordon .W 1986, ‘Strategic consistency and business performance: theory & analysis’, working papers, Massachusetts Institute of techonoly, Cambridge,

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