Are clients to blame for missed deadlines?

Surveyed agencies believe a lack of proper communication and scheduling is having a negative impact on productivity.

Missing deadlines is never good for business, but many agencies in a recent survey believe those issues can be avoided if clients provide better briefs and not be so indecisive.

Over 400 staff from agencies across Canada and the U.S. were polled for the joint report, conducted by project management company Function Point and the Agency Management Institute. Among the respondents, 70% were from a full-service agency, 10% from a digital agency, 8% from a client’s in-house agency, 3% from a media agency, and 10% from an agency classified as “other.” Roughly 45% of respondents were at the c-suite level and 26% at the management level.

The biggest barrier to productivity, according to 68.8% of respondents, was ineffective communication with clients. What’s more, the agencies put the blame for  communication breakdown on the shoulders of their clients: 35.8% said clients not providing accurate or comprehensive briefs was the thing that most affected communication, while 32.2% said it was clients changing their minds. A smaller amount put the blame on themselves: only 17.4% said team members not understanding requirements was a major barrier to properly completing assignments.

When it came to time management, 62.1% said the biggest barrier was their clients’ inability to meet schedules and timelines. Further, 48.3% of those surveyed said the biggest cause of missed deadlines were their clients’ workback schedules, compared to 13.8% who said internal team inefficiency was the problem.

The report didn’t place all of the blame on clients, though. When it came to tracking time, 44.1% of respondents said their procedures were only “somewhat accurate” or “not accurate.” And while that leaves 55.6% who felt that their tracking system was accurate, many account-side staff said anecdotally they weren’t using this data to better forecast future projects.

Another major concern raised by respondents was over-servicing, with 67% of creative teams having said that they over-service 50% or more of their clients, and nearly 30% saying they over-service between 70% and 90% of clients. Over-servicing occurs when agencies provide added value that goes beyond the work they are paid to do, potentially eating agencies profits by taking away time and resources from actual paid work.

Even though it was identified as an issue by many respondents, 48% said there are no repercussions for when over-servicing occurs. However, over-servicing might be a bigger problem for some agencies than others: several of the survey’s small agency respondents pointed out that improving their portfolio was a higher priority than profitability at this stage in their business.