What is a bad client

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The customer is always right? Well in the world of IT it cannot always apply.  Sometimes you are forced to make a decision. To fire the client. But it has to be very carefully thought out and the reasons why you fire a client need to be discussed amongst all your staff.

Firing a client is never an easy process. Particularly when you’ve built their website and been supporting the client for several years.  So what could go terribly wrong?


In one example, the lack of communication was so bad it drove us nuts. The client would submit work that was buried in an email thread that could be eight to ten threads long. We were supposed to find the work order somewhere buried amid the threads, and dig out instructions from the third party. To add insult to injury she would forward an email thread with no instructions, no direction and no business civility. We set up an online Work Order form mostly for her. She used it once and then within a week the email threads started to appear. As she was a client, we always remained polite towards her, but our designers were hitting their heads against the wall. This went onto for several years. We decided we had to fire this client. Her lack of communications skills just caused more unnecessary work for us and eventually when it came to categorizing her company, designated it a Work-At-Risk for our company.


Insisting on a work order. It worked for a couple of weeks. We even had to remind the client several times when we repeatedly got one of those emails, that all work had to be filed through the easy online work order.


Now the boss is chipping in.

It still surprises me at the number of people, with no business skill at all, get themselves into senior job positions. Either they are friends with someone in the organization, or they are hired for their looks, or whoever interviews them doesn’t know what they are doing. In IT it is our job to educate and advise our clients using language they understand. Let’s face it, if they had any real knowledge of IT they would be building their own website. But if you are not careful, the client can ignore your important timelines, ignore you advice, ignore your training and even go back on any agreement you have made. One client took credit for everything to do with the website. It’s even on his LinkedIn profile! I so hope when he next gets interviewed for a job, the interviewer asks him about how he developed this website and what program languages he used during development. Truth-he couldn’t develop a rabbit out of a top hat.


Walking the Web Dev Project Sheet into the clients office. I had already sent it to him requesting his approval. He wasn’t prepared for our meeting, couldn’t find it on his desk, couldn’t find it on his computer. And when he looked at it couldn’t read the very simple spreadsheet. When things went south, i.e. he decided to support the website himself, but within a few months the site broke and he tried to cover up his mistakes by blaming everyone else. He eventually lost/left his job.


I worked for one client for five years and never got a contract. I was a newbie after setting up my own independent business so was more interested in the work than being covered legally. Every year I asked the Executive Director for a contract. Many of this client’s independent contractors failed to get a contract a year ago. It was a shambles and the worst case of bad management I have ever seen. This is another Work-At-Risk issue. To make matters worse, two contractors spent months communicating with the person running the organization, they never got a response from the person who took over the hiring process from the hiring director. If there is ever a change in management, often the client will want to bring in their friends. Either way you could land up as garbage or worse still your business could.


If they don’t give you a contract by the start of work within the agreed timeline, don’t. That’s all.


The worst client is the one who thinks they know what they are talking about. If you are a developer, you would have listed all those computer languages you have acquired. I recently heard from one client that she was considering going over to W**bly for her business website because she had used HTML for several years and it was really, really simple. Madame, do you know anything about truncation? It certainly is simple but for a business website – are you kidding me? In fact, she had just put out a job description for a new employee and even mentioned on the job description that HTML would be required. At the office we were in hysterics. The truth is this person is suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect. It’s one of the more frightening conditions because many with this ineptitude often find themselves in management positions when they don’t possess one redeeming skill for the job.


Asking who was suggesting this amazing skill was all that was required for a website. It wasn’t going to be required on the website I had built because I already had a program running on the CMS (WordPress) built website that any of the staff could use to make their page look pretty. I never did get a response to this, but I was asked if I know W**bly.


Trust and ethics is the most important part of the client/IT/developer relationship. When that is lost, there is no going back. The client has to trust the whole of their online business with their IT person. If you are a client, would you trust your IT person with your bank roll, signing corporate checks, locking up your office at night, setting your office alarms, storing all your most important legal and corporate documents, protecting your company patents, secrets, client lists? Truthfully, there is no difference. That is the kind of trust that must exist between an IT person and their client.  But when the client starts a coven of gossip to get rid of you because one or even two of their senior advisors are expert in W**bly, and never even considered inviting you to the conversation, you must realize now trust has gone. Goodbye client.


You cannot bring trust back. At the office we talked amongst ourselves and considered all our options. We had two new clients ready to start so we didn’t need the money. In fact, that one website had cost us a considerable amount in donated time because it was a nonprofit. It is always sad to leave a website but if you are a developer they come, they go and you don’t get so attached to them as most people. It was the break in trust and the deceit that forced us to make the decision to fire the client. Just as simple as that.

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