Vendors and Clients: Can’t We All Just Get Along?
I’m thinking of doing a class or workshop on some basic questions to ask a potential vendor and/or a potential client because there seems to be a reoccurring theme of vendors and clients who are not getting what they want. Clients are feeling ripped off, vendors and service providers are feeling used and abused. No one seems particularly happy.
It happened again yesterday. I spoke with a woman who had a website for the past three years that was doing okay. With the amount of traffic she was able to drive to the site, she was getting one to two sales a week. She hoped a new, fresher design would increase sales so she hired a web design firm to create a new site. The new site has been live for a couple of months now and guess what? Not even a single sale. Talk about frustration.
She paid upfront for the new website. The vendor delivered a new website. Deal done. At least, it’s done as far as the website designer is concerned. The problem is that the site is not performing. It looks great, but there is a lot more to website development than a great look. It has to function, too. The vendor has been unwilling, and perhaps maybe unable, to make changes, or even suggestions, on how to make the new site perform at least as well as the old one. It just makes for one frustrated and unhappy client.
So, does she abandon the new site and kiss that investment goodbye while investing more into getting another new site? If she were to go that route, she would definitely be asking more questions and getting more answers and support from the next web designer.
She saw the vendor’s portfolio of beautifully designed websites, but she never asked about their performance on the back end, which was the end that actually mattered to her. Did those new designs bring in sales? She pointed out several issues that she said she questioned during the design process, but she felt the designer ignored her.
In another instance, I spoke with a vendor who is absolutely tearing her hair out because a particular client cannot be satisfied with any design or layout she presents. The client apparently has a vision but is unable to articulate it clearly. It’s one of those “I’ll know when I see it, and I haven’t seen it yet” situations. Rough draft after rough draft after rough draft has been presented and rejected. Doing what is turning into a never-ending project on a reasonable flat fee is now seeming like a really bad idea. Should she fire the client? If she does, should she return the money?
Both vendors and clients complain about missed deadlines, lack of response, and general unprofessionalism of the other side.
What’s the solution?
First of all, there needs to be a lot more communication at the very beginning of any project. In this day and age, unfortunately a handshake is not enough. I highly recommend that every vendor should have a written agreement that describes in detail the scope of the project, the goal of the project, stipulates how many revisions, how input from the client is considered, and other essentials. Just the activity of writing out the project should trigger some questions and areas of clarification.
On the client side, every client should come into every project with their addendum that describes their expectations as far as the goal of the project, how they want their input to be considered, and other essentials. Yes, it is legalistic, but some of these vendor/client situations are causing harm to one or both parties.
Secondly, vendors and clients need to commit to staying in communication with each other throughout the project. I recently recommended to a vendor that she send an interim status report to her clients to let them know that their project had not been forgotten. Sometimes on the client side it feels like that. She took my advice, and reported back that one of her clients actually thanked her for her note.
Third, there needs to be a renewed commitment to customer service and respect for each other’s time, energy, expertise, and money.
There is rarely a perfect vendor-client relationship, but honestly, it seems like there are some things that both sides can do better. Come on vendors and clients: can’t we all just get along? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter in the comments below.
Have a wonderful day,