I own a very small consulting firm; it’s just an administrative assistant and me. I’m telling you how small my business is so you may better understand why I’m struggling with the issue I’m emailing you about. I have a client I do considerable work for. I’d say he’s one of my biggest accounts, so far, for 2014. I’m frustrated with him because he’s not always honest with me. I’m a straightforward kind of person and would typically confront someone who isn’t being truthful with me. In this situation, however, there’s a big part of me that’s following the old saying, “The customer is always right.” because I need the business. I’m concerned that if I question him or let him know I’m aware of his dishonesty, I’ll lose him. Do you have any advice?
Conflicted feelings with dishonest client
Dear Conflicted feelings with dishonest client:
I understand and empathize with your situation, especially since I, too, am a small business owner. When I have learned some of my clients have not been honest with me, sometimes it was better to keep quiet and continue doing the work I was hired to do; and in other instances, it was appropriate to confront the client(s) even though I knew I could lose their business. I can also tell you that the times I confronted my dishonest clients, I did it with utmost respect and I did not lose them. I cannot, however, comfortably tell you that would have happened with the clients I chose not to say anything to. Both options have their plusses and minuses. Ultimately, only you can determine whether or not you should confront your client. Here are some questions to help you figure out the best way to deal with him:
• Does your client’s dishonesty negatively affect your reputation?
• Is there any possibility your client’s dishonesty has put or can put your other accounts at risk?
• Does your client’s dishonesty negatively affect and/or diminish the quality of the work/service you are providing him?
• Are you unable to concentrate and/or perform at the level you normally perform because of your client’s dishonesty?
• Is your client pleased with the services you are providing him?
• Why do you think your client is lying to you? Does the answer to this question have anything to do with you and/or your services, the client, or something or someone else?
Let me know what you decide to do and how it goes. Best of luck!
The following is one of the positive customer service experiences you recently shared with me:
I want to give a shout out to the drycleaner I used in South Florida, Sanchez Cleaners. Since moving to Northern Virginia a few months ago and having dealt with a couple of different ones, I realize how great my former drycleaner was. If Sanchez Cleaners couldn’t get a stain out of my clothing, I wouldn’t have to pay them anything or only a small fraction of the normal rate for cleaning that particular item. When I was charged that tiny amount, they explained it was to offset some of the time and chemicals they had spent on the item, which made perfect sense to me. That’s great customer service! They were fair and smart! Here in Northern Virginia, two drycleaners have charged me the full amount when a stain couldn’t be removed.
Missing my South Florida drycleaner
Dear Missing my South Florida drycleaner:
Thanks so much for sharing the wonderful experience you had with your South Florida drycleaner! Their way of handling the clothing that could not be cleaned is not only very nice but very fair! I have no doubt their customer retention rate is very high!
For those of you who may have missed my request in late March, I asked to hear about your positive customer service experiences. Given the purpose of my advice column, I usually hear about negative situations, but it is always nice to be able to recognize the decent things happening in the workplace.
© 2014 Rozanne R. Worrell