How to Transition Your Client to a New Agency with Kindness

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April 12, 2022 5 min read
by Nat Korol

For agencies preparing to transition a client to a new agency, there are plenty of existing resources with best practices and checklists for executing the switch. However, there’s often one key element missing: kindness.

Few how-to guides touch on the importance of this key relationship-based element and its potential to have a profound impact on your business success down the road. In this post, we highlight how kindness can help your agency make your client’s transition to a new agency a smooth and positive experience for everyone while laying the groundwork for future opportunities.

Happy clients tend to stay

What keeps clients happy? A good working relationship, great quality of work, and relationships built upon a mutual respect and desire to succeed – together. However, even with all these elements in place, a client may still decide the time has come for a change.

For retainer-based agencies like ours, clients can choose to leave at any time. Fortunately, we’ve had a great track record in retaining our client partnerships.

Over the past five years – and throughout the pandemic – we’ve had a 92% retention rate. This means the vast majority of our clients continue to value our work, the results, and the relationships we’ve established.

With client turnover at retainer-based agencies averaging 20–40%, we suspect that many of our fellow boutique agencies may be failing to nurture the human element of their client relationships – something we consider to be of the utmost importance, even when the client has one foot out the door.

A transition is an opportunity

Helping a client transition to a new agency collaborator is part of the business cycle and their journey as a brand. And we believe that as the outgoing agency, you should be supporting this transition with the same enthusiasm, professionalism, and attention to detail you have for bringing a new client onboard.

Why? First and foremost, because it’s part of your commitment to providing your clients with exceptional service.

In addition, overlooking a key client experience such as this could prove detrimental to your ongoing business success since we all know that burning bridges won’t yield you future opportunities.

Transitions are an opportunity for you as the outgoing agency to shine by providing a stellar offboarding experience for the client and supporting the incoming agency with knowledge and asset sharing. This transition is part of the relationship you’ve worked to build, and how your team handles it matters.

A blindspot in existing transition resources

There is no shortage of online resources listing the steps for switching between agencies. From checklists to how to handle the heat guides, there is a lot of foundational information available to help you succeed from legal, administrative, technical, and financial perspectives. 

But here’s what these resources often overlook: the importance of relationships.

When it is NOT ‘just business’ 

Despite our best efforts, there will be times when clients choose to leave. Acceptance and understanding that it is part of a normal client journey is an important first step in navigating the transition.

When it comes time for a changing of the guard, we follow the Golden Rule:

Treat others as you would like to be treated

What you do first can have a huge impact on the well-being of both your team members and your business. 

Let the news sink in. Resist the urge to point fingers, and don’t start comparing your agency to the newcomer – it’s not constructive. There’ll be time for a more level-headed and systematic post-mortem later. Your focus should first be supporting your client and team.

The reality is, it’s not just business. When you keep the Golden Rule in mind, you’re emphasizing the value of your professional relationship and starting the transition process on the right foot by continuing to provide a great client experience.

Making the transactional more tactful 

With a track record like ours, it’s natural to feel a mix of panic and concern when a client announces plans to shift to a new agency. However, we focus on viewing such requests as an opportunity to step up and offer a superior offboarding experience.

Here’s how we turned a recent client departure into a positive transition experience:

Staying true to core values

  • We proceeded with professionalism, attention to detail, and a client-focused approach, ensuring that the new agency was set up for success with their new client.

Acting out of kindness

  • Transitions can feel transactional and stressful. We chose to ease the anxiety with a collaborative approach, weaving kindness into every step of the process.

Keeping reciprocity in mind

  • While we were losing a client, another agency was gaining one – an exciting time for their team. By being open and sharing information and insights, we were able to nurture a positive relationship with our industry peers.

The takeaway: Turn today’s loss into tomorrow’s gain. It’s not a cliche; it’s simply good business. Successfully transitioning a client to a new agency ensures your former client has a good reason to refer business to you in the future!

Preparing for offboarding (with kindness)

How to Transition Your Client to a New Agency with Kindness - HYPHEN
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If a client of yours decides to shift to a new agency, your team should treat the transition as you would any new project by preparing the following:

  • Transition scope
  • Task list
  • Timeline
  • Implementation plan
  • Budget

Kindness check:

✔️ Have you provided all that you would need and appreciate having when onboarding a new client?

✔️ Put yourself in the shoes of the incoming agency – what will they need to be able to hit the ground running?

✔️ Have you shared all past working and files, contacts for third-party vendors, and a high-level overview of when specific work must happen?

You’re almost there…

There is one final thing left to do to really hit it out of the ballpark – book a 30-minute debrief meeting with the client.

Get it into the calendar quickly and keep it brief. Ask:

  • On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your overall experience with our team?
  • Why did you choose this rating?
  • Is there anything we could have done to make your experience with us more exceptional?

If you feel that anonymity would improve honesty and transparency, try a survey.

Once everything is wrapped up, ask your client if it’s okay to stay in touch and how to do so – company updates, social media, personal emails, etc. Likewise, let the client know whether it’s okay for them or the incoming agency to stay in touch with you and under which circumstances.

A final kindness check:

✔️ Were you considerate with your client during the debrief meeting?

✔️ Did you provide them with a means to give open and honest feedback?

✔️ Do you feel good about how you’ve concluded this phase of your relationship with the client?

The end, or a new beginning?

A male business man is helping a man to climb a steep cliff with a long rope, Vector illustration in sketch doodle style.

The end of a monetary relationship isn’t the end of a professional one.

Clients aren’t transactions. Let them know you appreciate that they’ve contributed to your success. Continue to reach out to them. If you do so genuinely and continue to weave kindness into your connections, you’ll stay top of mind and they’ll be more likely to refer you to others in the future.

How to Switch Agencies: A Guide for Clients