When you’re involved in a service business it’s no secret that not everything goes right all the time. Making the client aware of the bad news is probably one of the least pleasant things we professionals experience. But in that client relationship who should be the one to deliver that not good or ‘bad’ news? For me it was always the owner of the relationship. In most cases it’s the business development specialist or (old school) salesperson that had brought in the business in the first place.
I’ve been fortunate to have some terrific project managers on my team over the years and I always appreciated their efforts in being on the front line of the client relationships that I had initiated. I always wanted them to be the ones delivering the good news – we were ahead of schedule on something, had better results than we had forecast and other day to day account activity.
Upon occasion things did not go well, I always was willing to be the one to deliver that bad news in as timely a manner as possible. I note willing since sometimes the project manager would take that on directly with the knowledge that I was behind them to lend support. I believe that was appreciated all around and we had clients almost always more than happy to work with any member of our team.
In times of crisis the worst thing that can be done is to hide and not communicate. Clients don’t like bad news any more than anyone else. But what I’ve found they dislike even more is lack of communication. In the absence of communication people always make up their own narrative as to what they think is going on and it’s usually not favorably inclined toward the agency.
Working with Google, Facebook and Amazon for example does not offer many direct lines to communicate with a person within those organizations. This is done intentionally in this self-service world of customer service. Certainly if a company spends enough money on any of those platforms, a real-live person will get involved. However there can be other situations in which the platform’s policy is invoked and the client’s participation in the platform is suspended ‘temporarily’. This is the kind of thing that makes a client apoplectic – and that’s not without good reason.
Even if the problem is not of the agency’s doing, helping the client resolve and deal with the issue is paramount and communicating what is being done and when becomes the critical thing. If you’re on the front line be sure to have the relationship owner standing right with you – and hopefully they’re smart enough to be taking bullets for the team.