How do a digital agency and a client use relationship-and-trust to avoid litigation?
Introduction and Editing by Shauna McGee Kinney
One of the most important factors to consider prior to worrying about liability, contracts or litigation is your relationship with your customers, your vendors and your staff.
Most clients and vendors can prevent litigation issues over copyrights and liabilities.
— from a position of trust.
Over the next quarter, I will be sharing a series of short observations around ownership and usage of online content, contracts for non-lawyers and good business practices relative to liability within online projects. Most of the legal issues that arise amongst clients originate from a lack of trust, or a lack of relationship between the business and their customer, a client and their vendor, or the business and their staff.
Successful Client-Vendor Relationships
Let’s look at some of the ideas about the vendor-client relationship that my colleague, James “Jimmy” Huang, shared with me recently. Jimmy and I have worked in parallel as subcontractors (vendors) working for a client on their client’s project. Jimmy has been my vendor, handling analytics setup, email coding and website development for my business. And, he’s been my subcontractor working technical miracles for my own clients.
Examples of successful vendor-client relationships are easy to find. So, I asked Jimmy to share his observations working with me.
1. Proposals and deliverables
Clients are good at asking for results, and stating expectations. But, often clients have no experience and are unable to check how realistic their request for proposals are. Additionally, clients often set an unrealistically small budget for what is wanted.
A vendor and a client should expect to adjust the scope, deliverables and measurements in the proposal. When a clients and vendors have a comfortable relationship, both can work together to create a realistic, affordable proposed project. Some vendors want the work to the point where the measures are distorted or the outcomes are intentionally argued after delivery. Prevent litigation by adjusting the requested work based on a discussion.
Good vendors can be helpful in controlling a clients’ budgets.
When the client and vendor share budget responsibility, the vendor can deliver the best results while staying on-budget.
3. Planning versus production
Clients may be decision and strategy makers, but most of the time they have no idea how to proceed. Clients are slow to produce necessary content (logos, product images, executives’ photos) and write their copy. Clients may be the blue-printer, but they are not the pen.
When a client commits to their plan, they need to be ready to dedicate effective internal or external to gathering or producing the details.
4. Return On Investment (ROI) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
The client may have have no idea how the ROI of an online project works. The vendor may have no idea the client is nodding in agreement but not understanding. Most of the time, after a project is done, clients are terrible at summarising what they got from the project. Client’s reports conclude, “Some money was spent with some potential effects. The SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SNS (Social Networking Services) analytics are used as the KPI’s to show immediate effects of the online project. However, these KPI’s and analytics are hard to map directly to sales, or to correlate to how much money the online project brought in.
Clients should work with the vendor to identify what can be measured and how that measurement should be used to improve the online project. The vendor should educate the client on how to use data and the purpose of the analytics. Vendors should explain to the client how to make decisions based on the differences between data from a mobile website, a social media project and a web application.
5. Productivity of in-house versus outsourced services
For online projects, outside vendors usually perform better, faster and on-budget. External vendors have higher productivity, because they only get paid for the work they do for the client. Frequently, internal employees don’t care as much, are less resourceful, or aren’t as innovative, because they have stable salaries even when plans change or the project is not working out. Alternatively, outsourced person is out of touch, repeating or omitting information.
Clients should consider using an outside vendor when an online project needs to be completed on an aggressive schedule and with an affordable budget. Clients get the most value by developing an ongoing relationship with a vendor. The vendor’s familiarity with the client improves efficiency, but does not lend itself to complacency. If a client perceives apathy or doesn’t feel they are receiving a high-level of service, the client needs to reach out with trust to talk about the feelings. Prevent litigation by co-managing the expectations.
6. Purpose versus platform
Clients should present their business ideas and needs to the vendor. Allow the vendor to be the experts in the technology, such as coding and software. Too often, clients read about a platform or technology (HTML5, responsive web design, mobile apps, shopping carts) and dictate that they need this specific technology to achieve a business goal. Ask about the technology and share the article.
The client should rely on the vendor to be a resource for assessing the best technical solution for the time, cost, reliability and lifespan of the business activity.
What We Do Best
In conclusion, as vendors, we are here to ensure client satisfaction and improve projects. Together, as clients and vendors, we need to do “what we are best at doing.” We do our best work together – when we collaborate to make proposals realistic before a project begins. The work we do to build the relationship and trust will prevent litigation later.
I will be free to discuss any such topics with you.
Jimmy Huang, Senior Project Director
JoomlaCreator (New York)
109 Spring St, Suite 8
New York, NY, 10012 USA
+1 646 480-0691
6F Nanyuan Building
Nanjing, JS, 210005