Top 4 Ways Your Agency Fails at Customer Retention

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According to Jay Baer from Convince & Convert, half of this survey’s respondents admitted to having fired an agency in the past 24 months. Does that number shock you? If your agency has ever been fired from a client project, then you’re probably familiar with how volatile the client-agency relationship can be once things start going downhill – and you know how tricky customer retention can be.

Why do agencies get fired? It’s not for the reasons you might think. Even if your agency is putting in the time and resources to make your client’s project a success, you still might not be winning at customer retention. The following are the most common reasons that agencies get fired and how you can avoid the same fate.

  1. The Client Doesn’t See Work Being Done

    One of the most common reasons that companies fire agencies is because they can’t see the agency put in the work. When companies don’t have a way to visualize an agency’s efforts, they feel that the agency isn’t doing anything, no matter how much effort the agency is putting into the project. Agencies need to show the client that they are working to drive results.

    To understand how motivating this reason can be, let’s look at the findings of research conducted by the Harvard Business Review. Ryan W. Buell and Michael I. Norton conducted an experiment in which participants booked tickets through different websites. Surprisingly, most participants preferred the site that took more time to display the results over the one that showed them quickly.

    Participants preferred the slower site because they felt that it had taken more effort to search for their tickets. What could have been a deal-breaker turned into a positive because people perceived that the slower site was working more!

    The study states:

    “Simply showing people what is taking so long gets better results. Customers find waiting more tolerable when they can see the work being done on their behalf and they tend to value the service more. This holds true even when what shown is merely the appearance of effort.

    To put it simply: when people can see someone is working for them, even if it takes longer, they’re okay with it. They see “having to wait” as a sign of “work being done”.


    Use the results of the above study in your agency’s dealings with clients. Send little nudges or updates to your clients regularly to prove to them that you’re working on their project – the more updates the better. Such updates will give you the chance to SHOW your clients the different things you’re doing for them and that the efforts are indeed being made.

  2. The Desired Results Are Not Achieved

    Another common reason that agencies get fired is when they fail to get results. Often, this situation doesn’t arise because of an agency’s incompetence. Instead, it’s the result of failing to understand the client’s end objective for the project. A mismatch between a client’s desired results and the metrics that an agency improves can lead to a lot of client-agency fallouts.

    For example, while many businesses spend huge sums of money hiring agencies to help them rank higher for their target keywords on search engines. However, a business’ real ROI is measured by the leads and sales that improved search engine visibility gets them.

    So, to a client, it may not mean much that their website jumped to the 4th position on the first page of search results from the 10th position on the second page. What matters to them is that the higher search results got them more quality leads. If agencies only focus on getting higher SERPs, their clients may not see the desired end results. As an agency, you need to make an effort to align the project with the client’s end goals.

    As digital marketing consultant Neil Patel points out, agencies often don’t get it. He says, “Most SEO agencies have it wrong. They focus on rankings, not revenue.”

    It’s true that improved search engine rankings will contribute to the client’s goals, but it’s just really only a part of what will get the client great results.

    The problem occurs when you evaluate yourself as an agency. You may tell yourself, “We helped the client rank on the first page for X keywords”, and it may be true. However, the client may feel that: “I’ve invested so much into SEO, but I’m NOT getting leads.”

    Brian Signorelli fired an agency for the same reason when he owned small business. Brian had hired a marketing agency to get sales leads for his business. However, after spending $70,000 on the agency, he fired them because the agency was working on improving metrics that didn’t matter to him.

    He was looking for leads, and instead of trying to get more leads, the agency he hired was working on his company’s Twitter presence. Tells Brian, “We needed leads… we got Twitter followers.”


    To improve your customer retention, you need to understand the end objective of your clients’ projects and direct all your efforts to meet them. Make sure that both you and your client are clear about the goals and the metrics that will be monitored to evaluate your performance. This way, you’ll avoid situations like the above one where the client is interested in getting more leads, and you end up working on getting more social followers. In addition, always focus on the big picture. When you’re interviewing your client, try to get an insight into what your client is really trying to achieve.

  3. Not Communicating

    Another common reason that agencies get fired is poor communication. Communication is critical for any client-agency relationship, and a unresponsive agency often loses clients and fails at customer retention.

    Regular communication with the clients builds the necessary trust that leads to a long standing relationship. According to the study, “The Naked Truth” conducted by agency RPA and USA Today, “98% of both clients and agencies believe that a trust-based union leads to better work.”

    The result of the study also shows that “when it comes to the inner workings of the relationship, there’s a serious disconnect between what one side believes and the other’s perception. Where 88% of clients claim to speak their mind freely, only 36% of agency partners agree. Where 90% of agencies say they truly understand their clients’ business, only 65% of other-halves agree.”

    Tim Leake, SVP of growth and innovation at RPA says “We’re good at communicating at a mass scale, but terrible at communicating internally,” and “Communication breakdown happens at every step.”


    If your agency allows communication gaps to widen, differences will continue surfacing and will lead to the client-agency breakup. Instead, talk to your clients regularly. Schedule weekly or bi-weekly calls to make sure that the clients are up to date on how their projects are progressing. In addition, try to answer your clients’ emails quickly – maybe even make a guarantee that all emails will be answered within 24 hours.

  4. Not Explaining the Process

    Many clients complain that agencies are not transparent about their work processes. For example, it’s possible that an SEO agency could practice black-hat or gray-hat methods and (obviously) not tell their clients about it. Such practices would lead to the client’s website getting penalized.

    While that is an extreme example, problems can occur even when agencies don’t use such practices. If agencies don’t tell their clients how they’re going to approach their projects, then clients might be suspicious of your methods or end up not fully understanding the many steps involved.

    Even when no risks (like being penalized by Google) are involved, clients still appreciate agencies who are open about their processes. This helps clients see exactly how their project will shape up.


    To avoid having this problem, the entire process of how the project will progress should be made clear in advance so that there is no confusion later on. Talk to your clients throughout your process and tell them exactly how you’ll approach their work.

Improving Customer Retention Means Happier, Longer-Term Clients

Keep in mind, long term client relationships are beneficial for many reasons. Not only does that client bring in more revenue, but happy clients are more likely to refer more clients your way. With that in mind, the above four tips will help your keep your client-agency relationships happy and stress free.

Has your agency ever been fired for any of the above reasons?

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