The Biggest Problems Clients Have With Digital Agencies


You’re always striving to provide great customer experiences, right? If you don’t, there is sufficient competition out there that your agency is not likely to survive for very long.

We all know that we should be client-centric in our dealings if we want to establish good relationships and deliver true value in the eyes of the client. Part of that is understanding the common problems or small annoyances clients have with agencies.

If you know about these hassles and perceptions ahead of time, it brings new awareness to how you deal with customers and the structures you put in place to keep them happy.

Here are some of the biggest problems clients have with digital agencies…

Improve your listening skills: grab our quick steps here.

#1. Communication

Concepts related to communication seem to always be the number one problem that clients talk about with regard to agencies. (This is one of the reasons we created ClientFlow).

There usually seem to be two main culprits for communication issues, as perceived by clients:

  1. Their expectations of how and when you communicate are not being met.
  2. They do not understand what you’re talking about when you do communicate.

If the first one is the issue, it almost always comes down to how well you as the agency set up communication standards and expectations from the beginning. Occasionally you get a client who expects more than what you’d usually do, but most of the time, they’re happy to defer to you as the expert party whom they are hiring to solve their problem.

As a worst case, the client is absolutely right and your communication standards are so abysmal that it’s surprising you’re getting any clients at all. If you’re going silent on them during projects, only to resurface with a prototype built or a campaign put together, you can expect that there may be iterations needed or modifications significant enough that your timeframe is blown. YOUR CLIENT HATES THIS AS MUCH AS YOU DO.

The solution: Have a clearly defined plan for how and when you communicate and ensure you discuss that with clients before starting work. This allows them to raise any preferences they have early. Always share progress with your clients, especially at relevant milestones. This gives them the opportunity of early intervention if necessary and helps them feel they are in the loop.

If the second issue is a problem in your agency, again, it comes back to how well you are managing communication. Your client is hiring you as an expert. That’s your job, it’s not theirs to understand what you’re talking about when you “write the code” or “amplify content.”

The solution: That is not to say you should dumb everything down completely – that would just be patronizing to many – but you do need to understand your individual clients and learn to speak their language. This could be right down to the tools you use to communicate. We all know emails can get lost and often involve cumbersome inbox searches, so find out the best way to communicate via a tool the customer is comfortable with.


Not the communication methods your client is looking for… Source: Atlassian

It’s easy to throw your hands in the air and gripe: “but all this communication is eating into our work time.” If you start getting resentful about it, remember this: communication is the only way to build trust with your clients.

Think about how you feel if you’ve made a down payment on something but hear nothing in return about it. Your suspicions are raised, right? Have I just been scammed? Are they just not as good as they claim to be? Your transparency reassures the client and means they’re less likely to harbor ill feelings about your agency.

Clear communication is the only way to build trust with your clients

#2. “They Want Me To … What?”

Closely related to communication is how you handle parts of the project that you need the client to fulfill. Whether it’s “decide between X, Y or Z” or “check this draft and let me know what you think”, sometimes there are barriers there that really put a client off.

For example, sometimes you will strike the client who is an absolute techno-phobe who barely knows how to open an email, let alone send an attachment. Those kinds of clients often feel quite anxious at the thought of having to open files, make comments or give any kind of opinion.

The solution: Do your homework on the client right from the beginning. Explain to them what their role will be in the project and how they will usually receive communications. Listen to them and figure out what you may need to help them through and show them how the items you have completed directly relate to their business goals. Always encourage and be open about receiving any questions – the client wants to feel comfortable asking, not that there are “stupid questions.”

#3. “In-The-Box” Thinking

Your client is not necessarily expecting the delivery of a miracle, but if you’ve taken me on as a client with full knowledge of what I’m hoping to achieve, please don’t turn around and tell me it can’t be done afterwards.

For example, a complaint made about marketing agencies is that customers often hear something along the lines of: “you’re not going to be able to compete with (large competitor) on PPC, so forget about a digital campaign unless you raise your budget.”

This could be solid advice, if the only solution the customer wanted was PPC campaigns. But what about all those other digital mediums, such as those for distributing content? It is very frustrating to customers if you seem stuck on doing things a certain way which excludes what might work for them.

The solution: Keep upskilling and staying abreast of developments in your industry which may impact your project strategies. There is almost always more than one way to get something done, so alter your strategy to suit the outcomes and budget of the customer.

#4. Under-Delivering

How often do you see agencies pitching themselves as “full-service,” covering a spectrum of all things digital, even where their real expertise may lie in one or two of the items they offer? Don’t make big promises of results in areas where you aren’t an expert; this may only lead to under-delivering and disappointed clients, not to mentioned missed deadlines.

The solution: There are two really: either you hire people who actually are experts across all of the “full services” you want to hire, or you forget the label “full-service” and pitch based on your area/s of expertise and the unique value proposition you can bring with them. It’s never a good idea to just say “sure, we can do that” when you really have no idea where you’ll start to get it done. Your client wants to hire an expert who can turn out quality work, not wait while you bumble around figuring it out.

#5. Not Listening

Look, you won’t survive very long in the business of serving clients if you don’t remember the “two ears, one mouth” ratio and apply it proportionately. Clients cannot stand the feeling that their project manager is not listening to them or is dismissive of their ideas.

Once again, this comes back to how well you communicate because listening is a huge part of that. We’ve all had that disgruntled feeling when we feel we’re not being heard; don’t let that happen to your clients.

The solution: Hire listeners and practice being a good one yourself. As Fast Company points out, stop thinking about what you are going to say next and just listen to understand what the other person is saying. Not only will they appreciate you listening to them, but you will be able to give a more considered response if you’re listening to get their meaning first.


Source: Fast Company

Improve your listening skills: grab our quick steps here.

Problems Solved…

As an agency owner, it’s important to be aware of these common problems that customers have with agencies, also that they may be coming to you with preconceptions of these types of problems occurring.

Work to surprise and delight your clients from the beginning by prioritizing excellent communication, meeting on their level, thinking outside of the box and only taking on work that you have definite expertise in.

Your agency has the opportunity to stand out from the pack, especially if you avoid these common problems.

abhinav marla

Author abhinav marla

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • You are right. I think among all, communication appears to be the greatest impediment clients have with digital agencies. Strengthening your communication is indeed key to having a good relationship with clients. Thanks.