“Your Worst Customers Create Your Best Policies”, Part 2

1. That if you’re constantly complaining about customers, you probably need to change your business model.

 

2. Fortunately, since you’re an entrepreneur, you are the boss and you can make those changes. It’s accomplishable!

 
2.5. The coolest news of all: the crappy clients, can help us build our best policies.
 
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You’ll never hear me put a client on blast – or at least, not with any easily-identifiable features. I am not here to humiliate people – even people who didn’t afford me the respect I deserve. I don’t need to publicly embarrass anyone.
 
But of course, I’ve experienced all kinds of boorish behaviors. That’s how I learned to create a business that is (practically) bulletproof. Now poor client behavior is now so rare I’m almost spoiled!
 
But in observing other businesses – those who take my course, or ask for my expertise, or those who I scroll by on Instagram – I can see that poorly-behaving clientele, is an absolute epidemic.
 
I can’t solve your particular troubles in a pithy blog post. I don’t know who you are and I don’t know your particular troubles. I know that for about half  my one-on-one sessions in my course I am helping new or veteran businesses learn how to acclimate their clientele. It’s not rocket science but it is a series of steps, policies, behaviors and careful strategy that, when combined, fix the vast majority of troubles instantly.
 
I’ll share three examples from the last week – businesses I know, or that I’ve observed:
 
Problem:
You are getting inundated by customers (or potential customers) through a variety of methods of communication – email, phone, personal text, DM, or even through a spouse or a friend. This feels irritating, sloppy, and/or encroaches on your personal space.
 
Solution:
You have the right to decide what means of communication you accept. Create a Policies page and/or document; link to it liberally in your emails, social media bio, etc. A Policies page should be an abbreviated (read: not more than one page!) document that, while not taking place of a contract, steadfastly gets some of the important procedural details in clear black and white, without exposition. For instance: “All communication needs to be through email.”
 
Don’t write a damn novel; let people know how to behave and what to expect and stick to what you say. That means one, do not respond to anyone using a different form of communication (unless you are saying “Thank you! Please send me an email so I can more easily keep track of this project.”). Ignore the incorrect style of communications entirely if possible. Two: respond quickly, fully, and with courtesy when your clients do use the proper channel. You can train people. You really can.
 
Problem:
Clients change the scope of the project halfway through. You start a custom project – their website, their wedding gown, their custom bathouse – only to keep getting “helpful” changes, additions, or suggestions.
 
Solution:
Once again – in Policies but also in the Contract (if applicable), give a brief summary that addresses this issue – nips in the bud. For example: “After downpayment is made, any change to project scope needs to be submitted within one week, via writing by email” – or something like that. Make sure also that when your client submits payment, they have to physically check-box that they’ve read and reviewed your Policies.
 
Problem:
Clients complain that your work is late or that you took too long.
 
Solution:
Give your client a finish-by date, and meet that date.
 
(Alternatively: make your Client fill out a form where they check-box, in writing, that they understand you do not work to a deadline. The first option is far better, but this second option – where the client indicates that they understand this, in clear and brief writing and without exposition – is a good second-best).
 
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Obviously, I could go on.
 
The point is, I’ll bet you can’t stump me with a client problem. If you’re having them, you’re probably not communicating your process and your Policies thoroughly and clearly. You also may not be delivering what you promise – or what the client might reasonably expect. You either kept things vague, or you wrote overly-wordy Policies. The former means you left things open to interpretation (and that won’t work in your favor). The latter means that since you didn’t focus (and write a tight, brief Policies clause) – you encouraged your clients not to focus, either.
 
Leave nothing to “common sense”, or to guessing. Keep your policies brief and direct. Don’t over-explain them – ever. Be willing to discuss them if you are asked in good faith (note: hardly any one will ask!) – but keep them brief without whining or explaining. Write your Policies as if you’re paying by the word. 
 
Otherwise your (real or potential) client isn’t going to read them – let alone adhere to them.
 
Good luck!
 

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Interested in hearing more about the WHOLE ENCHILADA course? I send out emails on Mondays, gearing up for Fall’s session (registration September 1st!). You can sign up for those here.