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2 years, 9 months ago on 27 Complaints About Web Design Companies
I'm not shocked by any of what I'm hearing here but....
As someone that has tried to steward a website design shop through the worst recession in 75 years, I have to say that the effort to empiricize customer dissatisfaction but it really only captures the client side of the story.
I'll elaborate with a business anecdote.
Last year we were asked by a an existing client to design a new website for a new brand of theirs. Things went swimmingly until the client started asking us to redesign components of our layouts to which they had previously agreed and signed off on in meetings. After a few "how much clearer could we have been with you regarding project mgmt procedures" and "didn't you read the proposal you signed" sorts of discussions, the client paused for a bit because their internal workload was preventing them from spending any resources on their new site.
They went away for five months, a five month period when, like many others, our workload had been exceedingly variable. After laying one employee off, we were then slammed with work. When the client called us back, after taking a completely unexplained hiatus, they were upset that we couldn't put our work down immediately and give them our complete attention. This began a rocky three month period, during which their principal -- who had previously met with us several times -- suddenly was unavailable. His inattentiveness led to a protocol of our executing silly ideas via his administrative assistant.
I'm sure if you interviewed them, the feedback they would give you would square with your general findings. But, here is my takeaway from running a business for ten years and over the course of a recession (when the bulk of our client base rested in the real estate economy...
1)Client expectations can only be managed if the client is attentive and reasonable. If a client is expecting that you sign a fixed fee contract but then balks when multiple revisions and changes in scope necessitate revisiting the original costs, it might be time to look for a new client.
2)In this economy, it is probably as important for website design firms to be spending as much time looking for new clients as it is for them to be spending tim massaging their relationships with current clients. Yes, I've heard the canards about the cost of getting a new client vs. the cost of retaining an existing one but I personally believe that in a business that is so determined by relationship and communication, it is crucial to find clients who share not only your creative and marketing outlook but also share a common view about protocol and project management.
We beat ourselves over the heads to figure out what we're doing wrong when a client relationship goes bad but, in some cases at least, we should just realize that some clients are not meant to be. The economy right now is filled with as many clients whose expectations in all regards -- pricing, quality of service, etc -- is unrealistic. We need to work to find the clients who demonstrate faith in our work and share similar outlooks on process.