I recently hired a company to build a fence. Now, building a fence isn’t terribly complex, or expensive, but the way contractors conduct their business dealings with customers is interesting when compared to how agencies develop relationships with their clients.
I signed a contract with a fixed price and other specific project specifications. This is much like we do with clients at our agency. I paid a down payment. Again, this parallels our process.
Here’s where the differences begin.
The fence company places a lien on my property in case I don’t pay us for my fence and when I pay in full they sign a release. Can you imagine an agency telling an client something like that?
The fence company tells me they will call to schedule the work. I have little say in this, other than if there is a conflict on a given day. They’ll get to me when they have time. Our clients pay little attention to schedules we provide. We’re on their timetable and they call the shots like they own us and we have no other work to do.
When the day comes to erect the fence, we have a discrepancy in what was planned and what can be built so we discuss and agree to a solution. This is typical in our agency projects, but the fence company requires a change order before they will do any more work and this change order affects the price. I sign. They continue. Agencies have become so scared of rejection from their clients that a simple, formal process like this is often ignored. “We can’t ‘pressure’ our relationship with that confrontation,” we say.
The fence is up. I pay. They release the lien. The dog is in the yard. All is good.
Why can a fence company with tons of competition, no market advantage and a simple commodity be so presumptuous to follow sound business processes while an agency that provides greater value to their clients often cannot?
Two reasons: expectations and presumptions
If other agencies don’t do business that way, then how can we? Inconsistent business practices in a given field create mixed expectations and if all players don’t play by the same rules, there are no rules and the ones who follow rules loose.
Agency people think they cannot control the relationship because they never have done so. This is false. Done in an honest, up-front manner, most clients are not put-off by sound business practices. Even though the agency’s immature perspective makes them think signatures are confrontational, clients do this all the time for other services. It’s not that big of a deal.
It’s time agencies (and all companies that don’t believe in standard processes) learn from the fence guy and take a smarter approach to how to deal with their clientele.