Get it in Writing- Customer Changes and Updates- how to avoid a dispute

We all wish this was the scene for every customer interaction we have in the service providing industry.  Sun filled days with daisies and harmony. 

But the fact is; it is not likely to happen in a world of customers who think they have the right to walk all over you just because they are “the customer”.     Think about it, if you are in business to provide a service that the customer needs and most likely does not understand how it works; why would they come to you in the first place to use your service if they knew how to do it themselves?  Now mind you, being in a service providing industry never permits you to be arrogant or unprofessional; it only means you know how to do something and have the time to do it when the customer does not.

      While we as business consultants pride ourselves in giving the best service we possibly can and with a smile; we should also be confident enough in our abilities to say, with respect, NO that’s not right and that’s why you hired me to do the job for you. Now please let me do my job and if you are going to tell me how to do it and change the scope of my work then please understand what you will get for your dollars spent.     Even still, when a customer has hired you to do one job and you have clearly defined what that job is and they still ask you to do things out of the scope of the work you were contracted to do. YOU had better get it in writing before you do it or else you will pay later when they say, “you have not done your job”.

     To avoid conflict with customers when they change the deal or the scope of the work; send an email to the customer with the changes and require them to confirm receipt.   In all honesty, they may truly forget what they ask you to do.  Especially small business owners who have to do everything from A-Z for their own business. 

     While sometimes it is difficult to get people who do not work in an office setting to utilize their email; you need to let them know the work will not be performed until they confirm it in writing either by email or document.  Yes, this slows down the process of the work flow; but it ensures you that you have the details in email for when the customer comes back and says; I don’t know what I paid you for and I’m not happy; because they have forgotten all of the task they have asked you to add to the project.

No matter what the situation is; keep your cool.  Stand firm while you try your best to explain the outcomes and ” to do’s”  that were performed.  Show documentation for dates, times, and task performed.  That’s what you should be paid for; your time spent is time gone and is billable.   

     However, you must realize that sometimes you cannot win with certain types of people. It may be their nature to lay blame and fault on others when things don’t go as they perceive.  That’s their issue not yours for you cannot control what they do or do not do or say. Remember, everyone’s perception is different; so make sure your work is documented.

  Should a customer wrongfully accuse you of non-performance of your work and not pay you or begin to spitefully berate you, your company, or services causing you and your business harm; you may want to seek legal counsel, with caution, if it is not resolved in a professional manner. Don’t worry, people who constantly do that are recognizable to others.

      The matter of the fact is, winning an argument should never be your goal with a customer; avoiding an argument should!  Therefore, protect your business and your reputation by documenting every change, task performed, and scope of the work given by the customer. 

For the desired outcome is to keep the customer by showing them you did your job right. Be willing to go above and beyond to help them and always show professional courtesy to set the right example you hope they will follow.

2 responses to “Get it in Writing- Customer Changes and Updates- how to avoid a dispute

  1. Great tips from Don Gallegos’ book, Win The Customer, Not The Argument.

    When an angry customer is displacing his aggression, calm the person down by saying, “Thank you for your comments.” By using this logical response, you will let the person know you have heard what was said. Whatever you do, avoid using “I’m sorry.” It could be perceived as cowering.

    Always remember to address the complaining customer by last name to display your professional demeanor. Example, “Thank you for your comments, Mr. Smith.”

    When responding to an angry person, keep negatives out of your vocabulary. Always tell individuals what you CAN DO rather than what you cannot do.

    Finally, recognize that in the big scheme of things, it is not the situation that the angry customer remembers — it is how it is handled.

    Ann Marie Sabath, Author
    One Minute Manners: Quick Solutions To The Most Awkward Situations You’ll Ever Face At Work

  2. Thanks Ann Marie for churning in with some advice on how to best handle this delicate situation while saving face and hoping to maintain the customer.

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