• Clients and service providers often end up in contentious relationships based on misaligned expectations
  • Agencies or service providers become defensive when they feel that the client may take their ideas and have someone else execute on them
  • Asking the right questions can foster creativity and improve the work done by the service provider or agency

The conference call eye-roll – we’re all guilty of it. An outlandish request, idea or comment comes through the Polycom and you can’t contain your enthusiasm for its awfulness.

Service providers and agencies have taken this to the next level, creating multiple Tumblr accounts to display the verbal and email-based comments they receive from clients. (A few of my favorites are here).

In this spirit, I gathered up the top three things you can say to your service provider to get them to roll their eyes…or even cry.

  • Pitch me on that; pretend that I’m not a client. This is a goodie, and one that can get the service provider in trouble. If the service provider gives you a golden idea, you have the opportunity to lay into its staff members for not giving it to you sooner and ask, “What is it about us that made you feel we didn’t want great ideas?”
  • Can we think bigger on this (but not increase the budget)? You wouldn’t walk into a car dealership and ask to buy a Ferrari for the price of a Civic. But with a service provider, there is always a gray area that you can exploit.
  • Just send me that deck…I like those ideas. You can hear a pin drop with this comment. Stealing ideas and having a member of your team execute on them is always a way to make a service provider cry.

Yes, you guessed right, these suggestions are in jest. But, seriously, don’t ever say these things to your service providers. Remember, they’re chosen partners, not someone to treat like garbage. Instead, try these:

  • Tell me more. I’m intrigued about how we could do that, even if it is further out. You are asking for more information and acknowledging that this might be outside your comfort zone. Companies look to their service providers to push them to greener pastures, even if it is in baby steps.
  • Let’s go back to the drawing board together. I’m hoping we can find a way to approach this in a different way. Offering to be part of the solution helps the service provider understand that you are in this together. This also allows you to be clearer about what you want to overcome or change.
  • These are great! Can we have another meeting to set up an action plan and split up the work? Even if you end up taking on some of the execution in-house, involving the team that was part of idea development is critical to achieving desired outcomes.

To learn more about best practices in managing relationships with service providers, check out our other posts: