what to do when a client goes crazy

My firm took a quick-turnaround job yesterday to transform an existing graphic into an HTML email template. This required a bit of graphic design and a bit of old-school HTML 3. Our CEO asked one of the UI team to stay late and knock it out. I was here for part of the time that she worked on it.

At some point in the evening, the client’s designer came by and literally sat behind our designer while she tweaked his original image and created the HTML for an email newsletter program that we do not use ourselves, ConstantContact. While I was here, everything looked hunky-dory, albeit it… ridiculously slow. I don’t know why it took as long as it did. Evidently, they were in the office til nearly midnight having started around 6 or 7.

Today, the client decided we screwed something up. I haven’t been able to catch the whole story because it seems no one actually knows the whole story. But emails weren’t sent correctly or something. As I understand it, the client bitched and sent her designer over to pace around outside our office.

So what do you do?

Well, we jumped. We’ve got two people working on the problem. The client’s designer calls the client to report on us. The client calls our project manager. The project manager tells our designer what to do. The client calls our CEO.

What I think we should do:
Tell them to go fuck themselves and remove all our code and design from the web. There’s no way they saved it for themselves.

Okay, maybe we shouldn’t say “fuck,” but I think it’s a losing proposition. We had a designer in the office work 5 hours of overtime to get this project out the door yesterday. She had the client’s representative sitting behind her approving every single click she made. And the client has a problem today? Fine, take your business elsewhere. This could not be worth it. I heard the total price was $1000. So how far do we go to recoup just a bit of our losses?

The downside? Our rep? I don’t think so. Most likely, everyone who knows this client knows she’s a pain in the ass so how could her negative feedback hurt us? If her contacts don’t know her as a pain in the ass, it’s probably because they themselves are pains in the ass and we don’t want them as clients anyway.

The plus side of kicking the client out the door is that it will engender a whole lot of good will from our designer who is exhausted and annoyed. Also, it’ll save all the man hours now being spent by three other people in the company. And ideally, it would set a standard of abuse that we’re willing to endure for a small paycheck. Such a standard is incredibly important because it establishes in the company’s mind a baseline for other client dealings. “No” is an incredibly powerful word. Once you say it and draw the line, you really empower yourself to work with a better class of clients.