Are waitlists a good idea for your agency?

In this episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast, Chip and Gini discuss whether or not you should be using waitlists to manage demand for your agency’s services.

The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.

Chip Griffin 

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin,

Gini Dietrich 

and I’m Gini Dietrich.

Chip Griffin 

And you’re going to have to wait to hear what we have to say today.

Gini Dietrich 

But only for a couple of seconds. Yeah.

Chip Griffin 

I don’t know. I mean, I’m kind of busy, Jenny. So let me get back to you here. I got a few things over here.

Gini Dietrich 

Hey, I just noticed we match. I didn’t even notice that I’ve been talking to you for half an hour. And I didn’t even notice. We We are very well complimented in our color scheme today.

Chip Griffin 

Well, clearly your fashion consultant, talk to my fashion consultant. No, no. My fashion consultant is Amazon. What’s the cheapest shirt I can find? In a multitude of colors yet horrifies some of my clients that I have that level of fashions, I know you have

Gini Dietrich 

a client that does not appreciate that.

Chip Griffin 

That’s not and that’s Hey, it is what it is. I am who I am. And I’ll be honest with you, I’ve become even cheaper here during the the pandemic era because I don’t see anyone in person. And so video cameras cover up all sorts of issues. Like you can’t tell the quality of the fabric. Great. So who cares? Right? I mean, I just I just don’t care anymore.

Gini Dietrich 

Do you have them in rainbow colors? And are they in? Are they rainbow situated in your closet? That’s

Chip Griffin 

what I really want to know. I have actually started to standardize on just getting identical shirts. So that

Gini Dietrich 

Jobs was black in your blue?

Chip Griffin 

Yes, well, I think blue is probably the color that works best on me. I mean, the pasty white guy with no hair. It’s difficult to sort of come up with I call it real hair. That’s true. That’s true. Yeah, but I’m not I don’t know, I don’t think I can

Gini Dietrich 

do red.

Chip Griffin 

See, but the red then makes me look a little too red. Plus, I got the bricks in the back. No, but nobody really cares about this. But we’ve done a successful job of illustrating. We have illustrated the point inadvertently, of making you wait, because that’s what we’re going to talk about today we’re going to talk about weightless because I know particularly right now, as a lot of agencies are growing quickly. I would say coming out of the pandemic, but

Gini Dietrich 

we’re not

Chip Griffin 

in the current stage of the economy, whatever we want to think of it as they’re growing quickly. And they’re having trouble hiring because it is definitely a talent friendly market at the moment. And so there’s a resource constraint. So the question is, should you deal with this as an agency by putting potential clients or prospective clients or future clients on a waitlist.

Gini Dietrich 

So I go back and forth on this one. Because I think there’s something to be said for not being available immediately. And I always liken this to a really good hairdresser. You cannot call today and get an appointment with a really good hairdresser tomorrow, or two weeks from now, you usually have to err, you’re usually six to eight weeks out. And that depends on the time of the year. If it’s around Christmas time, you’re screwed if you don’t already have an appointment before Christmas, you just don’t get in. So I think about it from that perspective, I wouldn’t know. Well, right. But I do because I have a lot of hair

Chip Griffin 

a lot.

Gini Dietrich 

Just your wife here. But it’s true, you can’t so you know. So in order to see that really good hairdresser, you know that you have to make an appointment for the next time when you’re at the at the salon, and you have to make the appointment for Christmas time, probably six months in advance, which is what I do just to make sure I have the appointment. And I’m okay with that. Because I know that that’s the way it is. And I sort of feel that way about some of the work that we do. Like if somebody wants to have a meeting with a zoom meeting with me next week. I can’t do it. And I probably can’t do it in two weeks. I can do it in three, but I can’t do there’s no way I could carve out an hour right? In the next two weeks because I’m already packed, right. So I think about it from that perspective.

Chip Griffin 

At the same time, be honest, if it was good enough, you drop this recording like a hot potato.

Gini Dietrich 

I don’t know that I would actually

Chip Griffin 

I don’t know whether that’s good or bad thing. But anyway. Right, proceed. Anyway.

Gini Dietrich 

So but on the flip side, I recently as a client had an experience where I hired an agency and they said we can’t do any work with you for two and a half months and I was like but I need somebody right now and they’re like, we can’t literally can’t do anything with you for two Last month, and I was like, Whoa, crap, and they made me sign a contract. So that to reserve the time for two and a half months later, which I ended up doing. And I ended up going through the process and everything, but I was annoyed as crap about it. So I go back and forth about the whole making clients wait. waitlist topic? Yeah, I don’t. I’m surprised by that.

Chip Griffin 

I know. I tend to be so on the one hand on the I mean, I know we finish the show every time with it depends. But the pen that Look, I don’t like wait lists, Sam, I am. They they really irritate me. I don’t think they’re a good experience for either the agency or the client. Now. I’m talking about an actual waitlist, something like what you’ve described, I think if if it’s, I can’t have a call with you next week, it’s going to be two weeks, that’s not really a waitlist. That’s just a scheduling issue. Right. And so, you know, there’s, there is a, there’s a bit of semantics here, I don’t think you should drop everything to just jump into whatever new client comes along at the expense of all your existing work. That’s crazy. Yeah. And I and I think that, when possible, if you’ve got a good fit client, you shouldn’t turn them away, if you can avoid it. Right, you should try to find some way to accommodate them. But you can’t do it in such a way that it diminishes the quality of the work that you’re doing for them or for your existing clients. If you can’t do that, if you can’t accommodate it in some fashion, then I think it’s better to simply say, we don’t have availability right now. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. I’d really like to help you, but I’m going to help refer you to someone else. Because most people don’t come to an agency with with a problem that can really be pushed off three or six months or something like that. And so to me, it almost comes across as arrogant on the part of the agency to say, you know, we’re just, you’re, we’re too busy for you. We’re too busy for you. I just don’t like it.

Gini Dietrich 

Do you think also that it depends on the agency, like for my agency, I think that comes across as arrogant. But for a web design agency. Maybe that’s true. Like we we can’t build any new websites in the next 60 days. And that’s just the fact of the matter. Because we don’t have the developers, we don’t have the part whatever it happens to be. We don’t have the designers. But we if we get through the next 60 days, we can we can then take you on so maybe it depends, I guess so. Yeah.

Chip Griffin 

So I mean, in. And part of this, too, is that is that there’s the whole semantics around waitlist, I think because different agencies use that terminology differently. So I’m still thinking of what you’re describing is more akin to just scheduling. Right? And, and so in those cases, I would still onboard the client. Right? So if I’m doing that I’m not building their website, and I can’t give them deliverables for sure. I would still start the onboarding process, I wouldn’t simply say, you know, sign a contract, see in two and a half months, right, I would at least get the ball rolling. Because I mean, a website Bell, I used to do a lot of this work. A lot of the early work is actually on the client side. That’s true, right? So why wouldn’t you do the necessary kickoff type things which generally only require a few hours of your agency’s time, you then put the ball in the clients court to start providing you with information and feedback and, you know, lookbook type stuff and all that kind of, you know, there, there’s a lot of steps in that process. So you can manage your schedule such that you’re setting the expectation that the deliverables are going to take eight weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks, whatever. But it’s, it’s not simply saying, you know, you’re on a waitlist, because the way some agencies are using waitlist right now is more like when you go to a restaurant and you just put your name on the seating list. And you wait. Right? So to me, there is a difference between putting your name on the list when you show up at the restaurant and having a reservation for nine o’clock.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah, fair.

Chip Griffin 

Okay. So those are two different things. One is scheduling when it works. And then and that’s a sane judgment that both parties can make does this is this realistic? The problem is when you just say I’m too busy now, I don’t know exactly. When I’m trying the process of hiring. I’m trying to do whatever I’m trying to free up bandwidth. You know, so I’ll put you on my waitlist, and I’ll come back to you. Right, it’s those indefinite ones that are the ones that that to me, it doesn’t depend. There’s just no good reason to do that kind of thing. If it really is scheduled, and you can you can say I’ve got the time two months from now and I’m gonna book you for that. That’s fine, right? I mean, I do that with my coaching right now. I’m doing an agency business checkup, which is basically my audit program. Yeah, I mean, that may be scheduled 346 weeks out, depending upon well, so I’ve got going because it requires a dedicated focus for a period of time, that does require some scheduling nimbleness to get to. So it’s, it really does come down to how you’re defining the terminology here to understand, I think, what works and what doesn’t,

Gini Dietrich 

yeah, you’re actually reminding me I’m having my closets redone upstairs. And we went through the whole process, like all this stuff, not the build, but like the design and you know, picking out all the accessories and everything, and then getting everything final with the architect, and then signing the contract and paying a deposit. But my closets won’t actually be built until November. So I have this whole timeframe, which sucks, but that’s just how it is. Right? So they did I’m as you’re talking about that they did go through the initial stuff, like we did figure out with the architect what it could look like and how we, you know, how we could redo things. And then once we figured that out, what kind of shelving and and rods and blah, blah, blah, all the accessories I want, built all that out. And then now I just have to wait because they have to, because their books, their books. So

Chip Griffin 

from their perspective, they’ve got you more bought into the process. Right? Right. So you know, even even signing a contract. And we’ve talked on the show many times in the past how contracts really aren’t worth the paper, they’re printed on nine times out of 10, whatever, you know it getting them involved by starting to provide information, they’re now locked in more. So from the agency perspective, to me, it’s beneficial because you’ve got them invested enough that they’re likely to continue waiting it out. Whereas if it’s just some sort of a verbal commitment, or even even a signed contract, they’re more likely to come up with a reason why circumstances have changed, or they found someone who can build a website for them. And yeah, we had speed mattered more, right. So you think there are a lot of ways that you can address these things from a scheduling perspective as an agency from an expectation setting, aspect of an agency getting little bits and pieces started. But the other thing is, if you’re an agency, you should be thinking about how you can flex your ability to serve as clients up and down as necessary. So having that mixed model that we’ve talked about before, where you have a mixture of contractors, freelancers, as well as in house employees, full time employees part time, whatever, that gives you the ability, particularly if you’ve built up a good Freelancer network, to hopefully start moving some of these other projects along so that you don’t have to put someone on a three month waitlist or a six month waitlist or something like that, which is even when the client goes along with it, just as you described, you get kind of irritated, right? So is that really how you want to start the relationship with the client that they that they have? You know, while they they’re looking forward to working with you, they’ve also done a little bit of an irritation. Yeah, it’s like when I go to that restaurant that doesn’t take reservations. Yeah. Which, frankly, I mean, obviously, these days, I don’t do that kind of stuff at all. But But even pre pandemic, I just I hit a point in my life, you know, when I was about 24, and I’m like, screw this, I’m not waiting in lines anymore. For restaurants don’t take a reservation, I, you know, you’re not good enough that it matters to me, right? I can go get a good meal somewhere else. So and people will be the same way. Right? So you don’t want to create that feeling of irritation, because it’s just going to mean that they’re going to in all likelihood expect snappier service when they actually do come on board, right? Because I had to wait all this time. Like it when you when you wait two hours for your table and then you sit down and it takes them 20 minutes to bring your drink order. You’re even more irritated, right? Like I waited, I sat out here, I sat out here in the 95 degree humid weather for this table. And now I sit down you can give me a glass of water. And if you’re an agency, give your clients a glass of water, for God’s sakes get it right on the table.

Gini Dietrich 

I think

Oh, okay.

Gini Dietrich 

I think there there is one small challenge, especially right now. And it’s something that you brought up earlier, which is there aren’t people to do the work right now in Freelancer network or not everyone is is at capacity everyone. And that’s the challenge that we’ve faced, like I had somebody call me yesterday and she’s like, we really want to do this with you. Even though we’ve been talking since January, which kind of drives me crazy. Um, can we get started at the end of the month? And I was like, No, we, we can’t I’m sorry. Um, so as you’re talking, I’m thinking through, you know, because you you know, and we’ve talked about this on the podcast Before that, we always start with Today strategy session, we’re doing it on zoom now, right? But we always start with, with that, where we get really in depth in a client’s business. And we honestly, and truly, we don’t have the capacity to be able to do that before October right now. So in many cases, I am turning the business away and helping people find another agency just because we can’t we don’t have the capacity to do it. And, and are not my team is fully utilized, which is a problem. And our Freelancer network is as well. So I think you also have to make a decision as a business owner. You know, can’t Can you move things around to accommodate? Or do you have to refer them to appear?

Chip Griffin 

Right? And there’s nothing wrong with that. See that? No, this is the problem is that, that when you’re an agency, if you start getting greedy, and you and you take the idea that you don’t want to turn business away to an extreme, and you do absolutely anything you can to capture that business? And we usually think of that in terms of you just say yes, when you should have said no, in the moment, right. But but but weightless are just the other extreme of that. Right? You’re saying you’re saying yes, but it’s an open ended? Yes. And we don’t know when, but in your case, you know, you can to me again, it’s it’s not so much a waitlist is the schedule, look, we can, the kickoff process requires our two day intensive. You know, right now, we’re booking those in October. And if that works, great. If that’s not so much a waitlist, that scheduling, yeah, right. Okay. And if it doesn’t, then you should absolutely be happy to help them find Oh, yeah, solution. Because that is better for your reputation is better for your reputation to say no to someone and help them find an alternate solution than it is to say yes, and give them a bad experience. Yes. And to me, an open ended throw you on the waitlist get to you when I can. That is a bad. Excuse me a bad client experience from the get go. And that is not how you want to get started.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah. And I think you’re right, even when you’re bought in at the start you you are irritated by having to wait for sure.

Chip Griffin 

Right. And your and your expectations go higher. Yeah, it must be. It must be so good. It must be.

Gini Dietrich 

Yeah. So

Chip Griffin 

So I win this round,

Gini Dietrich 

you win this round, like I i 100%. hear what you’re saying. And I agree with you on the like telling somebody they have to wait. We’re happy to take your business. But you can’t we can’t do anything with you for 90 days. But that’s as somebody who has experienced that it is not fun. And you’re right, you do expect you expect better service because of it. And then when somebody makes a mistake, you’re like, to your point, I don’t even have my glass of water yet. Like,

Chip Griffin 

right? Yeah. And look, if if you tell them look, I just you know, we can’t do this until x date, it gives them the opportunity to decide whether, you know, they they think that meal is going to be so good. They’re willing to wait for it. Right. Right. But it’s not. It’s not putting them in that, that uneasy position of having to sort of agree to some open ended. Hangout. Wait, see what happens. Yeah,

Gini Dietrich 

and you’re right, for most of us. For most agencies, when a prospect comes to us, because they have a need right now, they don’t have a need 90 days from now.

Chip Griffin 

They probably had it 90 days ago, because because most people wait too long to come to an agency where we can have a whole separate conversation about right. But generally speaking, by the time someone goes out and actually hires an agency, they are behind the eight ball to begin with, because they either didn’t have the bandwidth internally to do it. They didn’t have the talent to do it internally. And they found out the hard way, particularly these days, because it’s it’s so easy to think you can just DIY agency work. Right? I mean, yeah, many times have you dealt with a client who tried to DIY it screwed up and came to you, right? I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s like, you know, if you’re a plumber or an electrician, you know, you get a lot of calls, because you know, someone like me sat in there and said, Well, you know, I can rewire that light switch. And then I saw the smoke, and I’m like, maybe I should call a professional and see if maybe you might know more than I do.

Gini Dietrich 

I’m not surprised me about you.

Chip Griffin 

This is by the way, just for the record that has never ever happened

Gini Dietrich 

that you’ve burned down or

Chip Griffin 

No, I’ve never burned something down. And I don’t think I’ve ever screwed up and had to call an electrician I have from time to time I’ve tried to do projects and realized very quickly that I couldn’t get done. So I called mean like, I had a problem with my dryer vent not too long ago. And I’m like, yeah, there’s way too much work to try to sort out all the bends and curves that were in this thought. Yeah, and we moved in and you know what, I’m not even going to mess with it because we have a gas dryer. I don’t want carbon monoxide coming into the house if I screw it up. So, you know, but I didn’t like, yeah, I mean, I didn’t wait until the carbon monoxide detector. Some people do that. And a lot of people do that before they come and hire an agent. They are letting carbon monoxide into their building before they call the agency to solve the problem for them. Yes, yes. Yes. And and ultimately, ultimately, business development for an agency is about matchmaking. It’s not about sales. It’s not about closing, it’s not, it’s matchmaking, it’s trying to figure out is there need a match for what you’re providing as an agency. And that includes when you can provide it. And if it’s not, you should help make a match somewhere else. Because they will remember, they will remember that you helped them out when they needed it. Make sure you’re giving them a good referral. Don’t send them somewhere where maybe they will maybe they won’t get the service they need, right that it’s better in that case, to not make a referral and say, you know, I don’t really have a solution for you. I can tell you what questions to ask I you know, I would I would still try to give them some sort of a a gentle blow off, you know, where you’re, you’re helping provide some resources for them to make their their next decision. But I just, I think that the open ended waitlist concept just I think it falls down and I think it doesn’t fulfill that need as a matchmaker and being of service to your client and all that kind of thing. If they say I don’t care how long I wait, okay, cool, fine. I can guarantee you most clients aren’t gonna say that most clients are not going to say to you, you know, you know, I mean, unless, of course, you’re Gini Dietrich, I mean, I’m sure people say never it takes for me to work with Gini Dietrich. I two years from now. That’s fine. That’s fine. Not through. Alright, you

Gini Dietrich 

win this one. I

Chip Griffin 

agree. waitlist suck. Alright. And so with that, we will keep you waiting no longer for the end of this episode. I am Chip Griffin,

Gini Dietrich 

and I’m Gini Dietrich,

Chip Griffin 

and it depends.

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