Strap yourselves in, this is a client and agency from hell..
A few years ago, I was working for a creative agency, and a job came in from one of our biggest clients. They wanted a very high end brochure designed and printed for an exhibition on the other side of the world.
This job came in via my then boss and the account director, who told me everything was good to go, all agreed, budget set aside, ways of working signed etc. It was not my job to get involved in that, that was client services’ responsibility, so I had no reason to question it.
I met with the clients and we scoped out what was needed. They wanted every print finish under the sun, and it worked out needing a four week print scheduled, and a further two weeks delivery to ensure it went through customs in time. I drew up a watertight plan with key milestones, review dates etc, everything they would need, and explained the risks of missing these dates, of not being able to do proper QA if time is restricted, all the usual. They said fine, they agreed to everything, off we went.
Of course, the client then chose to completely ignore that. Emails were unanswered, phone calls and voicemails ignored. We even turned up at her office frequently with bundles of proofs for her to check, only to be told ‘she’s out for the day’. On one occasion, a member of the project team had to wait in reception for three hours before the client left a meeting and finally gave her some time, and she was annoyed at us for “distracting her.”
I raised concerns with my boss, saying this was getting out of hand and it needs intervention, or the project scrapping as it was now getting too risky.
I was told it would be fine.
The four week print production ended up being two weeks owing to the client constantly ignoring requests to review/sign off. This also meant the entire day set aside for proofreading/QA (there was a lot of technical spec in the brochure) ended up being 30 minutes. We could check hardly anything and just had to go with what we had.
As a failsafe, I had a number of brochures sent directly to the client’s house in case the main consignment was held at customs she could take them in her luggage so they at least had something. I told her the printer would deliver them personally between 12:00 and 13:00 and she said great. I then had a call from the printer to say no one was in. I subsequently discovered she decided to pop out for a haircut during the agreed delivery time.
The brochures got delivered on time, after many late nights and pushing the printer to the limit to get it done. A few days later, we received a very angry email from the client. There was a mistake in the brochure, something we would have easily spotted if able to do proper QA. We all got on the phone and I suggested we get a local printer to print a card of the erroneous page so they at least have that page of correct tech spex, not ideal but better than not having it. She then informed us that as she was so angry at this, she had ordered all of the brochures to be destroyed.
I told her there was nothing we could do in that case, you have destroyed the product that took months to produce, we can’t get more done in a few days, so she wanted a refund on the printing.
We had an internal meeting shortly after and I said there is no way we should even entertain refunding this. We gave them a solid plan and they ignored it, we tried to contact them so many times and were ignored, all the risks were ignored, they didn’t listen to a thing we said and to top it off, pulped the brochures before even talking to us about a solution. I noticed the account director was being quiet and asked for her thoughts. She told us she had already emailed the client, agreed to the refund, said we would take full responsibility and that we would review out own practices as clearly we were in the wrong.
It took a good minute before I was able to speak again to ask why the hell had she done that. I was told it put us in a good place for future business. I also then discovered that all of this was agreed over a boozy dinner one night. Nothing had been contractually agreed at all, it was all say-so.
You know what? They never worked with them again.
And neither did I.