When a client goofs, how do you handle it?
Every successful entrepreneur understand that the phrase “The Client is always right” is a mere political statement to boost the ego of the client. Often times the client is ignorant and dead wrong. But who dare say that to his face. Since the client is the one holding the purse, he has to be praised like one of those monarchs of old and tactically guided to make the right decision. I guess that is why another phrase says the “client is King”. Else, he will get offended and go to the competitor. I’ll share with you a life-story from my friend, Leke who works in a construction company. I believe his story will teach you one or two useful lessons as an entrepreneur on what to do when a client goofs (by the way to goof is to make a silly mistake). Here is an excerpt of what he sent to me, though edited to reduce the length, the gist remains the same.
Yesterday, I had to combat with the mess created by an ignorant client. He earlier requested for a proposal on a project he want my company to execute. We sent a detailed proposal and gave three different options with different cost implications. In his own wisdom, he decided to create an entirely new fourth option by mixing features from two different options. Economically, it sounded like a good idea, but from professional experience we advised that it was too risky and if anything goes wrong, he will end up with a bill higher than any of the three options initially sent to him.
Did he listen? No, he argued and claimed that he was better off with his idea and we should go ahead because he was certain that it will work out fine. From his argument, it was obvious that he was more interested in the cost reduction being offered by his new option. He totally discounted the risk factor that ought to be built into the new option. After a long time of trying to persuade him to change his mind, we consented to his wish but requested that he put the decision in writing to be signed by all. That was done and there was warm hand-shake after the deal was sealed. However, I was very uncomfortable and I told my boss so.
Twenty four hours after the deal was sealed, the project started and everyone were busy working towards delivery on schedule. However, just about 60% into project completion, there was a hitch. A firm handling a particular aspect of the project has suddenly pulled out, claiming they cannot meet up with their promise due to some technical fault in their equipment (they never mobilized to site). That was a stupid thing to say after receiving mobilization fees, and of course they were part of the project design and planning. I will like you to note that in our initial proposal, we ensured that all parties involved in the project were capable firms and they were having enough stake in the project to warrant full commitment.
Unfortunately, the new option the client created introduced a new firm who we didn’t know much about (a competent firm was removed with the excuse that their charges was too high). During the negotiation meeting I pointed out the risk of using a firm that is not known, but the client was vouching for the new firm’s competency (that to me was a dumb thing to do). Well, the firm’s failure was at a critical moment, the entire project was getting messed up. A colossal loss was staring the client in the face and my company’s corporate reputation was at stake too.
I was summoned by my boss and asked to give a quick review of the project. Was I furious? You could actually feel the heat emanating from my face. After narrating the whole incidence all over again and showing evidences that the client was warned but he refused to take my advice, I expected my boss to write a stinker to the client telling him to go clean up his mess. My boss did otherwise.
He reminded me that the client remains one of our major clients even though he has made a stupid decision that resulted in loss of fund and time. So, I shouldn’t be upset and rub the blame deep on the client. Instead, I should note that it is at such a critical time like this that a business relationship with the client can be further strengthened. He told me plainly that I have no fault whatsoever and my team has acted in line with our company policy, however, I’ve got to clean up the mess created by the client. He told me to go back to the drawing board with the assumption that the mistake was mine since that is the only way my creative mind will agree to bring forth a solution. I didn’t like it, but I knew he was right, so I went back to my team and we started brainstorming on how to salvage the situation with as little fund as possible.
Kudo’s to my team member for their cooperation. We came up with ideas I never thought of before and the whole mess was cleared up. Then came another shocker. I wanted to pass the bill for the repair to the client, but my boss stopped me and instructed that it should be shared 50:50. So, the client was not only saved from a colossal loss, but was actually getting free consultancy from my company while paying only half of the cost of repair. It took some time before my brain could accept that, I was really upset and wanted to tell my boss it wasn’t fair and I personally consider it stupid. Even if the client is important, must we be held accountable for his mess?
Well, it was a good thing I held my tongue. I would have needed to apologize later to my boss. Today, we receive a thank you note from the client and a fresh request for a quote for an entirely new project. The client followed that up with a telephone call promising to always adhere by our professional advice. Looking back now, I understand why my boss, took the decisions he took. Maybe that is why he is the boss and I still report to him. I just wanted to share this with you.
Please extend my warm greetings to…………
I believe the story said it all. Even if your client goofed, it is not wise to rub the mess on his nose. Here are the lessons I got from the story.
• That the client is considered a king is no assurance that he will act wisely.
• When the client goofs, you need to handle the mess created carefully.
• Relationship is more important than short-term profit.
• Never show your anger to a client else you lose them to the competitors.
That’s it. When next you feel like boxing a client for goofing, remember that he holds the purse, so you must treat him like a king even when he is acting plain stupid. I’ll love to know how you handle difficult clients especially after they have created a mess by ignoring your professional advice. Please share your story in the comment section. You can get future updates to this post When the client goofs by subscribing to my RSS feed. Cheers.