“The customer is always right.” This statement gets said too often in business and it’s accepted without question or truth. Really though, it’s a statement that sets a dangerous precedent in business. There’s not one group of people in the world who are considered “always” right. Bending to the demands of an unreasonable client or customer can spell disaster for your business. In business, there is a trade-off between meeting/responding to your clients demands and doing what’s best for your company. Scope creep is a real thing and businesses need to be aware of where the line is. You should never have to compromise your integrity or your business’ financial stability to accommodate excessive customer demands.
You’re not going to please everybody. There will be a time when you run into a client or customer that is difficult to deal with or wants more than what they paid for. There are people in the world who will take an inch if you give a mile. Follow these steps to try and avoid putting yourself in that kind of situation.
Disclaimer: This will not work in every situation because some people are too stubborn and you just can’t win.
1: Set clear expectations and guidelines with the customer
Contract, contract, contract. ALWAYS have a contract when you’re dealing in business. Contracts are a great way of outlining the work needing to be completed and sets the expectations of what will be provided to the client. They are created to protect you and your client. Setting clear expectations from the start is the first step in dealing with difficult clients and preventing disagreements from occurring.
You can even integrate this into an initial meeting with your client once they sign on. Establishing clear guidelines right from the get go minimizes the risk of an unsatisfied client. The customer will know what is expected and the deadlines that come with it. They may still be disappointed in the quality or work but that still gives your team much more control over the situation. Go the extra mile for a client but not to the point where it causes your business financial instability.
2: Solve the problem at the core
Like I mentioned earlier, you can lay out the clearest guidelines and expectations for a project, you’re still bound to encounter a dissatisfied client at some point. These types of people exist everywhere and won’t be happy until you’ve bent over backwards and given your first born child to accommodate their every need. This is why it’s so important to get your business in the habit of noticing these traits early on and nipping client problems in the bud. Sometimes what clients are mad about and what they say they’re mad about are two different things. This is when you need to get to the core of the problem and create a solution.
Ask questions about what they’re mad about and be slow to fire back with a response. Listening is your best friend in these kinds of situations because it will help you get to the core of the problem quicker. Soon you’ll be able to identify what the actual problem is and identify a solution that will be appropriate for your client.
3: Consider your options
You cannot allow your business to reach financial instability in order to meet a clients demand. If they are looking for something outside of the scope agreed upon, you need to consider your options to cover the additional financial costs to meet the demand. Giving away free services to a customer risks financial stability. It also sets a risky precedent that your future clients get the same leeway when challenging their demands. People talk and if they know they can walk all over you, guess what they will.
I’m not saying you should never bend over backwards to try and meet a clients demand. However, you should be cautious in where you draw the line between remedying a customer demand and taking excessive financial loss. Don’t cower at the idea of a bad review because you’re unwilling to bend to a clients demand. You need to think of what the future holds by meeting this demand for the client. Will it cause financial instability? Will it harm your business reputation in some way? Don’t let yourself be swayed by clients who are clearly in the wrong and focus on your right, qualified clients.
Written by Josh Grieve, owner of BeGeek.ca
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