How to End a Relationship with Your Customer?

Published in Inside Nelio.

Initial Warning: this post does not intend to scare any of our potential customers. If you have been or are one of our clients, do not worry. This post is not about you—I’m talking about someone else.

The Problem

A potential client with a Drupal, Joomla or any other CMS-based website is desperately looking for the best service to migrate her website to WordPress (you can read more about the reasons to change to WordPress in Jordi’s post). At some point, the client finds an excellent service, Migrate to WordPress, and contacts us to migrate all the content of her website and to create a responsive, fast WordPress theme that resembles the design of her current site.

First, we ask her for a copy of her current website database to run various tests. This way, we’re able to detect possible migration issues that may require additional services, which should be discussed with the client. Typical issues can be related to, for example, how we migrate users, custom fields, files, or forms; how we’ll set the multilingual behavior; do the site needs to be a multisite WordPress site; or how we’ll manage SEO. After analyzing in detail the database, the design of the website, and the information provided, as well as discussing with the client all the possible issues involved in the migration, we provide a detailed proposal with the scope, process, budget, duration, and terms and conditions of the migration project.

Once the client accepts our proposal, we migrate her site within the budget and duration agreed. After ten days of the delivery of the website, and if nothing else arises, we consider the service as completed.

At this point, let’s assume the client is extremely satisfied with our work. What could go wrong here?

The problem begins when the happy client with our service is reluctant to end our professional relationship.

Some days after the service is completed, she sends us an email with questions that are not really related to the migration, but related to, for instance, how she can change certain things, which plugins we recommend, and so on.

Wait… Is This an Actual Problem?

I guess this would be the dream of any web designer or web agency, but this is not our case… let me continue…

In 2013, we created Nelio with the aim of creating WordPress specialized services and, as most start-ups, we wanted to build a scalable SaaS service. After a deep SWOT analysis and study of the market trends, we decided to focus on 2 initial services: (a) Migrations to WordPress and (b) Nelio A/B Testing (a native WordPress conversion optimization service, which includes A/B testing, heatmaps and clickmaps, widget testing, and more). Since our resources are scarce, we decided to limit our consultancy services to migrations and A/B testing and let aside other related tasks such as, for instance, web maintenance. This way, we’re able to secure specialization and quality in our niche market.

So, again: How can we “smoothly terminate” our migration service with a customer in an efficient and profitable way and, at the same time, make it clear she can count on us for any other migration or A/B testing service (or other specific services we may offer)?

How to Improve your Client Relationships?

If you start looking for the answer, you’ll soon realize the solution to the opposite problem has been heavily discussed. In my case, I found plenty of information describing tips for web designers to build a positive and effective long lasting client relationship:

But this this is not what we need! As I said, we’re (surprisingly) trying to answer the opposite question. Luckily, these readings may help us solve the problem at hand.

Let me summarize what we’re working on. First, we have identified typical wrong assumptions made by our customers:

  • We think that our clients want to change to WordPress because they know how WordPress works and, therefore, they know the advantages of WordPress with respect to other CMSs. Unfortunately, often this is not the case—they are familiar with their CMS and have no detailed information of what WordPress is.
  • On the other hand, we also assume that our clients know everything they need to run their site. They certainly know about the importance of writing for the web, running social media and tracking analytics. And, of course, they know about the importance of website maintenance. But, notwithstanding, they are tired of who currently is making the maintenance of their websites and they want to get rid of them, specially when they are paying a fixed fee for what they consider “doing almost nothing”. They believe that, once in WordPress, they will be able to manage everything by themselves. Usually, they simply cannot.

Many clients may not be truly knowledgeable about what running a website over the long term (Digital Adaptation, Paul Boag) requires. There is a risk of underestimating the amount of work required and, additionally, they lack the internal necessary resources.

How to End These Relationships?

In the end, the solution is quite straightforward. Tell the truth, make it clear where your service ends, and try to foresee the problems that you know will bother your customers and make sure they are aware of them. In our case, we are including in our migration project proposal, information related to how to manage a WordPress website. We also tell the client that, after the migration, we recommend to hire someone to perform all the web maintenance work.

Do you have a business with a similar problem? How do you tackled it? Any suggestions and comments will be very appreciated.

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