Five things clients hate about you

New research has revealed the ‘top five client complaints’ about design consultancies.


Source: Skley

The survey was carried out by business consultancy Up to the Light and supported by the Design Business Association.

It is based on 400 interviews conducted throughout 2013 with clients on behalf of design consultancies. The clients came from all sectors, including FMCG, public sector and the arts.

Based on this questioning, Up to the Light compiled the ‘top five client complaints’ about consultancies. These are – in no particular order:

• ‘They’ve become a bit comfortable’;
• ‘They could be more proactive’;
• ‘I don’t really know enough about them’;
• ‘They don’t challenge me enough’; and
• ‘They need to be stronger with us’.

Up to the Light founder Jonathan Kirk says, ‘Many clients are looking for their consultancy to drive things more – scheduling of meetings, managing budgets, chasing harder, taking more responsibility.

‘”I have to chase and remind them. It should be the other way around,” is a typical comment from clients.’

Kirk adds, ‘One of the most frequent client comments about their agency is “show us what’s new out there”, or “be our eyes and ears”. Clients spend their time in the fairly narrow field of their brand and market, they appreciate analogies with other markets and examples of other brands with similar challenges.

‘As consultants, agencies are ideally placed to do this, but are not always taking advantage of the opportunities to add value.’

The research also found that 81 per cent of clients are looking to reduce their design agency costs.

In addition, 69 per cent of clients believe their consultancy to be ‘a little expensive’ compared with other consultancies.

However, the research showed that despite concerns about costs, 94 per cent of clients consider good design to be an ‘extremely important’ factor to the success of their business, and 66 per cent considered their consultancy to be good value for money.

And a while a heartening 74 per cent of clients say they look forward to meetings with their design consultancy, just 8 per cent say their consultancy ‘exceeds’ their expectations.

You can read the report in full at

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  • jackie Hawkins November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    This is like gold dust! Its what I have been saying to my design clients for years. Great to have substantial evidence. Its where the DBA really come into their own…. Designers HAVE to become less self-referential, and communicate better with clients on the issues THEY want to hear. It is hard to do when it is yourself, but in the same way that clients hire designers to help solve a problem, designers should hire Communications experts to help them understand how they can do their jobs better and keep clients happy… Great piece DW

  • John Scarrott November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Hi Jackie, I agree that’s exactly what design businesses should be doing and we support those that want to do it. Would be pleased to hear from you if you’d like to talk.

  • Billy Dulay November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    On the one hand, I agree. From time to time, especially in busy periods, we all fall into the trap of taking one or two of our clients for granted. We could try harder. On the other hand, and call me cynical, but this research also confirms what we suspected all along – that clients continue to want more for less. A pat on the back is nice but in these tough economic times, it doesn’t keep the wolf from the door.

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