Over-promising and under-delivering

Over-promising and under-delivering: A guide on how to tell when an agency is slipping

Thanos, death and taxes are just like an unresponsive agency – inevitable.

You go and ask for a progress report from the agency who you hired because they could apparently turn water into wine and would blow competition out of the water, at a fraction of the cost nonetheless! But it’s weird isn’t it? They avoid you for a few days, they don’t pick up the phone and your emails go unanswered. Finally when you’re just ready to go there in person you receive an email with the progress. We’ve all been there and if you haven’t, odds are you will; just like Thanos it’s inevitable. Those who have been in this situation probably can vouch that it went one of two ways:

  1. They had a legitimate reason for the delay, it happens we’re all human
  2. They were really far behind or haven’t delegated enough resources to your project and thus they ignored your calls until it was ready

Most of the time it’ll be A especially since 99% of agencies are likely good at what they do considering, you know, it’s their profession. But you might run into the 1% and so you don’t need to pay the price for an agency is slipping here is a few tips on how to spot the tell tale signs.


Dishonesty is an awkward thing to approach; no one likes to be accused of dishonesty but at the same time no one likes to be accused of it. This can end discussions, ruin partnerships and end relationships; there is a stigma around accusing of dishonesty since it can backfire pretty spectacularly if disproven. Unfortunately but unsurprisingly there will be an agency or two that aim to take advantage of this stigma to really get away with more than they should.

A good litmus test is to see if they promise more than is realistically possible to deliver or alternatively they will agree to essentially any goal, even if it is completely unrealistic. I’m not saying aiming high is a bad thing but there are reasons for concepts such as S.M.A.R.T targets. I believe a company which is withholding information in the hope of saving face may seem like a minor issue but it can grow into a big problem, any signs of dishonesty could be a sign that the agency is slipping.

Reactivity > Proactivity

Now I think we all like a good plan, it reassures us and lets us delegate time to things efficiently and make contingencies in case the worst happens. Yep, Plans sure are wonderful… so imagine how discouraging it would be to find out the agency you were paying to complete a task were essentially winging it?

It’d be madness, I know so it’s probably something you should keep an eye out for, if an agency is only reacting to issues and tasks rather than building up a plan of action and actively seeking out issues to iron out and ways they can go above and beyond it could mean they are likely to slip up in the long run or may already be slipping. This is a good thing to watch out for as it can be an early indicator or a late warning sign which lets you be proactive yourself in extending any deadlines and covering your own back. 

Under delivering 

By the title I don’t think it’s much of a surprise that this is one of the points; but let’s be honest we all know that an agency delivering substandard work is one of the most aggravating things that can happen. It’s one of the biggest causes of high blood pressure in the industry and that’s a fact (it’s not…). I don’t think I need to spell it out for you when I bring this point up, if you’re getting a poor quality piece or pieces of work then they have slipped or will slip pretty soon. If this happens and they aren’t outright and honest about the reasoning then you might want to jump ship, since an agency which can happily deliver poor quality work and call it a day probably couldn’t care less about standards and by extension – your project.

Luckily reviews and referrals are available so agencies that are under delivering can and are called out on it; this gives you an opportunity to not touch them with a twelve foot barge pole. Finally it can be a sign that your current agency is slipping, especially when it’s a drop off in quality from previous work; this might be a good time to communicate to your agency – which leads us to our next point!

It’s still too short in my opinion…


You’d think that talking to people is easy, I mean we do it every day but you’d be surprised on how many people avoid doing it – especially in the business world.

The reality is that most people hate communicating in the business industry since it leads to expectations and conversations you usually wouldn’t want to have. No matter how nice and civil you are, if you ask for updates on progress such as when you’re working with an agency you essentially become to whip cracker, the one they have to answer to. You can ask any one, it forms a feeling of avoidance and a dislike of explaining what you’re doing. An agency who is slipping will hate this conversation even more since, obviously, they won’t have much to show or it will be in poor quality so they will avoid the conversation. This can show in a variety of ways like:

  • Ignoring calls
  • Ignoring Emails
  • You have to chase them numerous times for an answer
  • You always speak to a new person rather than having a consistent point of contact 

Expanding on the last point, this is always a good sign especially if they have to go search for information, this shows a bad level of communication within the business which is obviously being produced outwards. Finally for everything I have said regarding bad communication, it can always be explained and isn’t an immediate reason to pull the plug, someone could have simply got sick and didn’t tell the replacement where your project file is – it happens, we’re human. Don’t be scared to ask someone where the usual contact is since most agencies will have a very simple or valid reason which puts your mind to rest; see how useful communication is?

Lack of energy

I’m a firm believer in only doing what I enjoy. Basically I mean I only do something I have an actual love/enjoyment for which makes it all worth it. The reason for this is so I always know I’m not wasting my time and I can always work to a standard I’m happy with and be motivated to continue to turn up in the morning. 

Agencies are like this, yes they are making money from you but on an individual basis, each of their employees are needed and if the ones who are working on your project lack any motivation or drive  then I don’t think I’m stupid for assuming the work will be affected as well. This can be a problem since they are likely to procrastinate and not care which when combined with a poor or unfinished product will equal a loss in money or someone getting on your back about this. 

This is a weird point if the situation occurs with a current agency since it’s not exactly something which is easily measured, so it might be better to treat it as an early warning sign to look out for other signs as previously detailed.  

Hopefully this post has helped anyone who needed it and you can feel free to check out some other blogs from me (spoiler: they are good).

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