Client or not, behaving like a jerk… means you are a jerk!

Recently I was asked by one of our Sydney Talent Agents to join her on a client visit to a high profile Ad Agency group. I jumped at the chance because I love speaking with clients, and we were booked to meet two very senior people, both at Executive Creative Director level.

We arrived on time (5 minutes early actually, as is my wont) and waited in the trendy, borderline pretentiously creative reception.

And we waited.

And waited.

At 10 past the meeting hour we asked the receptionist for an update. She looked a little confused. She made a call. She clearly got a disconcerting answer, and then disappeared out of sight.

We continued to wait.

Eventually she came back and it was clear she had bad news.

The Creative duo had been “called into a meeting”. She paused, and then added (in what I could see was a moment of embarrassed inspiration) “by the CEO”

We explained we had an appointment, confirmed the day before. She offered to call the HR Manager, and she did, but that person was unavailable. I could see she was the innocent party here, and very uncomfortable, so I asked if we could have a 2 minute chat with one of the ECDs, to set up another time, but she got even more flustered, and we left on the basis they would call to reset the meeting.

Neither of them did. Ever.

They never contacted us again. Not to apologise for wasting our time, not to reset the meeting. A meeting they had both firmly agreed to at the outset, verbally and via follow up email.

Then, three weeks ago I spent 5 days in Tokyo. On that trip I met with 7 clients, all at CEO, Marketing Director or VP HR level.

I was struck by the demeanor of these clients when it came to dealing with us, their supplier. Most were Japanese, but two of the people we visited were Westerners, living in Japan for some time.

On each occasion we were clearly expected and were greeted as honoured guests. The receptionist buzzed, and within few moments a PA or assistant greeted us and showed us to a meeting room. We were rarely left in the reception for more than a few minutes.

Always, refreshments were offered. Water, tea and many times small cakes and biscuits as well.

On not a single occasion did the person we were there to meet keep us waiting. CEO or not, the meeting with us started on time.

The shortest meeting we had lasted an hour. Length of meeting does not dictate quality of course, but it does mean that your presence there is taken seriously, and that time has been allocated.

To cap it off I was struck by one final act of good old-fashioned manners.

At the conclusion of every meeting, the senior person saw us not only to the door, not only to reception, but actually walked us to the lift and waited till it arrived. They then shook hands, thanked us for our time and pressed “ground floor” for us, and waited till the door closed.

Compare this to our super-cool ECDs in Sydney who stood us up without a second thought, or even the courtesy of coming to reception to tell us why.

It’s amazing the effect this all had on me. I now remember each person I met on that trip vividly (I do about 100 client visits a year, and many events, so that’s not always true!), I feel a high level of commitment to these clients in terms of Firebrand filling their needs, and I follow up with the local office, even now, to check on progress. And, truthfully, I felt a little better about myself, and what we do for a living.

And it got me thinking. Being ‘the client’ does not make you special. Being special is what makes you special.

I like to think I treat my suppliers with respect. But this lesson from Japan made sure I will give it extra thought from now on.

In a position of ‘power’ or not, being rude is being rude. And being a jerk is just, well, being a jerk.

Views: 75

Comment by Adi Kaimowitz on July 16, 2011 at 12:24pm
The question now is: should the clients that kept you waiting need your services with the requirements, as always, carrying a sense of urgency, would you service them promptly and appreciate the business coming in or would you let the ego get the best of you and politely tell them you'll try your utmost to get right on it..... But you're a little bit busy.

Clients who have money to spend is key. Sometimes they are jerks but we love the money they give us when we deliver. I also try to avoid clients who are less than angels but the next morning once I've had a chance to calm myself, I suck it up and get on with sourcing them candidates who will fill the vacancy.
Comment by Greg Savage on July 16, 2011 at 2:03pm

This so called 'client', Adi is now a source of talent. We have 4 of their key people out in interview with our REAL clients right now, having approached them all.

No, I am kidding!

Maybe

But you get the point. In truth, my view is that we would try to work with this client again, on the basis this behavious was a one-off. But if it happened agian, and as the talent market dries up, no, I would not take their business and whats more we would tell them why.

In some markets we operate in, like SE Asia, where the job market is running hot, we already pick and choose who we work with, based on whether they work with us in partnership, pay full fee and have a strong employer brand. We have access to talent most of our clienst don't, so the balance of power has shifted

These guys in Sydney just have not worked that out yet

Comment by Valentino Martinez on July 16, 2011 at 2:39pm

Greg,

Thanks for sharing the "jerks-in-the-works" juxtaposed with the grand treatment you received from enlightened leaders from an entirely different culture.  I've enjoyed similar experiences particularly with foreign customers.

Arrogance is another word of disrespect.  Being willing to be disrespected to stay in business with an arrogant client opens the door for disrespectful treatment down the road.  From experience I always pass on those clients and “maybe” they become targets because I’ve discovered if they treat a potential supplier (business partner) disrespectfully—they tend to be equal opportunity abusers of their own employees as well.      

Comment by Greg Savage on July 16, 2011 at 2:44pm
Totally agree with your comments Valentino..
Comment by Adi Kaimowitz on July 17, 2011 at 9:59am
Greg I really enjoyed your opening paragraph. Especially since you finished off by saying you were kidding. I'm new to recruitingblogs and find the humor most refreshing.

Valentino I agree with you. A client who doesn't know how to treat me becomes a source of talent. Recently I called a client up to let him know our working relationship wasn't working for me anymore. I play in a niche industry and enjoy the experience of networking, having people out on interview, filling vacancies and most importantly being somebody worth knowing.

I look forward to reading more posts from both you guys and understanding how to improve what I do.
Comment by Arun Samuel on July 18, 2011 at 2:07am
Greg,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I really feel that the term "Client" gives way to all these, it's not fair to generlize but to an extent companies enjoying the status does this very often at the same get away very easily. I'm sure they will have a different approach when these so called "Client" becomes a supplier to another.

I think it's the attitude which needs to be changed and one should realize that it's all about being strategic partners more than anything else. If it wasn't for the need a client woulnd't require a supplier and a client probably wouldn't exist if the need doesn't exist.
Comment by Stuart Folley on July 18, 2011 at 11:41am

Hi,

 

I am also new to the recruiting blog and it is very refreshing to see humour mingled in with a serious matter such as complete rudeness. Working with clients that are rude, less than communicative and/or arrogant is something that I refuse to embark on also. It is a waste of time to put my own skills or those of my team members to waste on such people. We are extremely selective with clients and candidates alike - which, some of you may say, is a non-effective way to run a business, however, if we put our valuable time and effort into a client relationship that does fit our ideals then we will let our respectable clients down - something which we will not allow! Our sales recruitment services are best provided to those clients who have moral fibre - it isn't much to ask for!

 

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