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There are ways to hold your customers accountable

Jan Quintrall

Some months ago, thanks to a careless move on my part, I fell off a chair and landed on my head, wrenching my neck. My preferred method of health care – simply ignoring it – has proven to be just as successful as it usually does, and now I am beginning physical therapy.

When I completed all the paperwork at my initial appointment there was a very clear statement on one of the pages of paper about missing appointments, showing up late or continually canceling appointments. They went on to say that after a specific number of failures on the part of the patient, the clinic could and probably would “fire” the client. I wanted to stand up and applaud, but my neck was bothering me.

Any professional who generates income only when a client is receiving service faces the same challenge. For example, a barber who sets aside 30 minutes for each client, and books those slots weeks ahead, is simply stuck when someone does not show up. The barber receives no income and seldom has a walk-in fall into the chair just when he needs one. How inconsiderate on the part of the client. Likewise, when a customer turns up 10 minutes late, that event affects the rest of the schedule. I wonder if the latecomer knows or even cares?

Life happens, and everyone is late or misses an appointment once in a while, but as a business owner, you can and should set limits on this kind of behavior when it becomes a habit:

•After the second occurrence, talk to your client and let them know the effect of their irresponsibility.

•Let them know you will have to end the relationship if the behavior continues.

•Stick to your guns and do not let them walk all over you and disrupt your schedule and your income.

This is just another example of the customer not always being right, and talking about it should do the trick. If it doesn’t help, you don’t need that kind of client, do you?

There is great value in setting expectations up front in any relationship. My experience with the physical therapy provider shows clarity in expectations with the client.

How clear do you make your requirements to your customer? Most of us in business assume a whole lot when we start a relationship with a new client, and many of us outline just what a customer can expect from us but don’t give much thought to what you would want from a customer. What if you added just a few points like the following to your contract, initial customer handout or front door?

•Contact us immediately if you have a question or a problem as the project progresses.

•If you need to reschedule a meeting, please do so 24 hours in advance.

•Please direct changes and questions to the job foreman, not the tradesman.

•You have provided 555-1111 as a number where we can reach you quickly if necessary.

•We want this relationship to be favorable to all involved and know communication is key.

Knowing what is expected on both sides starts everyone off on the right foot. Just be sure you follow on your promises, too. Of course the other side of this issue involves concerns like those hour-long delays customers face in health care waiting rooms. But that is another column.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at (509) 232-0530 or
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