It’s been an interesting week. The new client who seemed a great referral, and long-term potential client, turned into the worst client. Ever. Bar None. We are talking clientzilla!
Here’s what happened:
On the Sunday I received four emails from said client (yes, four emails, on a Sunday). They contained information and instructions for an upcoming email campaign I’d been asked to plan, write copy for and execute. One of the emails thanked me and was very appreciative of the work I was doing. All good then.
On the Monday my request for a Skype call with the client and web designer was ignored, which was strange as our web launch on the Friday had been delayed, and following a voicemail from the client on the Friday, I’d understood that we’d work on the website over the weekend with a view to launching on the Monday.
On the Monday evening I got a “hit you between the eyes” email from the client, picking apart my invoice (which outlined all the work I’d done for them – much more than I’d anticipated, of course) and using words such as “unprofessional”, “disappointing” and “insulted”. Wow, could this be the same person who 24 hours before had been happily emailing and voice-mailing, as we made plans for the next phase of working together?
I spent two days trying to speak to the client (who was suddenly very busy and not able to answer her phone or emails, having previously bombarded me with calls, requests for help and advice, and emails). We had a very unsatisfactory hurried call as she was “almost at the train station and about to lose signal at any moment” where I was told she wouldn’t be paying my bill as I had failed to deliver what she wanted.
Like any intense relationship ending suddenly and unexpectedly this has led to a lot of soul-searching. Until I decided this was a waste of my precious time and energy I agonised about what I’d done (or not done or should have done), spent time going over my notes and paper trail and wondering WTF had happened between the Sunday and Monday emails.
As it is I’m glad this dysfunctional relationship’s over now as it was starting to become all consuming – and clientzilla was very demanding without being clear on what she wanted – but it’s caused me a big headache and there are issues still to be resolved (in particular, the outstanding invoices).
Always have a 100% clear written understanding of the expectations and deliverables for your client. If the spec or parameters change, they should be updated by mutual agreement.
This might sound obvious but with our agreement the deliverables were based on implementing the marketing strategy I’d put together. This covered a wide gamut of marketing. The role quickly expanded to me becoming a de facto outsourced Marketing Director expected to be available 24/7 to provide expertise and support to the client and her staff. I should have either agreed to provide this advice and expertise on an hourly basis (but trading time for money is not how I like to work), or gone back and changed the deliverables.
As it was I’d completed a number of tasks and spent many more hours on the project than I’d anticipated so I invoiced for the work I’d done and sent a list of “next phase” projects [which we’d agreed to talk about on the Monday]. I felt like a part of the team, and was happy to support the client and her staff get their new website and launch campaign off the ground.
Make sure your deliverables and targets are not dependent on factors outside your control
The main issue it seems (because I’ll probably never know what turned my client into clientzilla), is that the new website was not launched on time. There were various reasons for this, some I’ll put my hand up to but others that were completely out of my control, such as the web designer having “server issues” on our intended launch day meaning she couldn’t work on the site. The client wanted the new website live in preparation for a pre-Christmas/pre-2014 marketing campaign and, having left me a message regarding the server problems, said we would work on the site over the weekend. Admittedly this is a day later than our target launch date, but still in time to meet her key objectives.
One of my tasks was to manage the web designer but having been commissioned by the client directly (who wanted to “try her out” because she was local and cheap – cheap by web designer standards anyway) the web designer was clearly only taking instructions from the client (who was paying her bill). I did what I could “within my power” to keep things on track, but obviously failed because the website wasn’t launched on time. (Side note: one of the reasons I work for myself is that I couldn’t stand the office politics in the corporate world. Suddenly I’m dealing with office politics bulls**t again!)
My husband asked me whether I’d have been able to launch the website on time if I’d used my own web designer. “Of course” I replied, “because I would have been in control”. Duh!! Sounds obvious in hindsight, doesn’t it! (Side note: The web designer is no longer on this job either so it seems we’re both persona non grata!)
The client had complained that she’d been “let down” by a number of web designers and marketing consultants over the past year and “wasted” a lot of time and money with people that hadn’t delivered. I also heard that she’d “fallen out with” the previous web and marketing person and was in dispute with them. It seems she’s burning through outsourcers so why did I think it would be any different? (that would be my ego kicking in thinking “I’ll do a good job for this client where others have failed”. Actually, if the clientzilla took an honest look at herself she might notice that the common factor with her staffing and business problems is herself.
The Final Insult
Part of the brief was to create a new video for the client’s home page. I duly hired a video marketing friend who created a video which the client LOVED. Not only did she email her thanks and praise but she left me a glowing voicemail too…
I confirm I am happy with the final version, really appreciate the quick turnaround.
Excellent video………I’m very impressed especially as it’s the 1st draft.
Completely captured our colour scheme throughout, the ideal clients we want to attract also identified their typical pain points.
Really like the “Peter” character.
Good use of our logo, social media and contact details throughout.
Totally managed in a few screens say exactly what we do and how we help – in a nut shell!
I think you’ll agree she was pretty happy with the video. But as of today she still hasn’t paid for it, despite repeated requests, phone calls etc.
And here’s what REALLY p****ed me off.
She emailed my video marketing guy and asked him if he would produce MORE videos for her (this was during the time she was refusing to answer my calls and I had no idea what was going on)
She THEN emailed him and asked him to INVOICE HER DIRECTLY saying she would be happy to pay him promptly if he did. (Bloody cheek, I was LIVID!!)
So, thank you for reading this far and for letting me have a good vent. Blogging (in fact, any writing) is very cathartic and is highly recommended. And if you’re a web designer or marketing consultant be careful if you’re approached by a demanding clientzilla in Bristol needing urgent help for a 2014 launch, and ranting and raving about the previous incumbents.