What to Do When the Customer is Wrong

We've all heard “the customer is always right.” But let’s be realistic — customers are, for the most part, clueless about pools; they have no idea of what it takes to repair, replace or renovate any part of the pool or spa. If they did, they wouldn’t have called you. However, when things don’t go as your customer thought they would, they suddenly become the expert and you, the pool/spa company, are the idiot. So, what do you do? First, here are a few simple ways to prevent these problems:

1. Educate your customer about the process. If they are familiar with what you tell them should happen, they will know what to expect.

2. Address their expectations. Most problems occur when the customer's expectation doesn’t meet the outcome. Throughout the quoting process, make sure you know what they expect and that their expectations are realistic. If you pull the liner up and the whole floor has to be redone, you should have probably mentioned that possibility on the front end.

Just one example: We literally had a guy one time who didn’t want to pay for drainage when we found groundwater under his liner — and I mean a lot of groundwater. He thought we should do the work for free. His expectations were definitely not lined up with ours, something which should have been handled on the front end. Which brings me to the next point:

3. Slow down. Sometimes we get in a rush, we’re slammed, it’s hot, everyone wants to swim and we all know we have a short amount of time to make a lot of money. Unfortunately, haste makes waste. For example, take the time to explain to “liner guy” what is and isn’t included. While our terms are listed in the contract, we had a guy who obviously didn't read it, and I didn't go over it with him line by line. Now, my store clerks go over everything line by line before getting a signature so everyone is on the same page. So what if the checkout line is backed up, it saves a lot of attorney’s fees and headaches later.

4. If you sense they expect the impossible, don’t take the sale! It’s that simple. You will save more money by turning the bad work down. Let your competition deal with that person's unrealities and put them out of business. 

So, what do you do if you are already stuck with the customer?

1. Give them an explanation of why they're not seeing what they expected. This usually is pointless, but it must be done. You have to try to reason with them. I would suggest you address it in person or on the phone if possible, because it is more personal, but always follow-up the discussion with an e-mail of what was discussed. People tend to hear what they want to hear, so be sure you have it in writing to cover your butt if necessary later. Be firm, but empathetic.

2. Rectify the situation if possible. If it costs less to fix it than the court battle that may ensue, then fix the problem. Let’s be realistic: Hopefully, you aren’t disagreeing with a client over a $100 service call or cleaning. If someone is upset about a cleaning, give them a free cleaning. Trust me, I have learned the hard way. It really irritates me when people try to get things for free. And a lot of the time when people complain, they are simply trying to irritate you enough to get a freebie. So, in the past, I would never give in and stood firm — and trust me, you never win. Even though they are wrong, rude, and a swindler, they will paint you as an absolute ass clown (pardon my language) for the whole town to see. Ask me again how I know.

3. If you have done 1 and 2 (or 2 is completely out of the question due to finances) then you have two options: 1. Do nothing, and wait to see what the customer does. 2. If they keep calling and just won’t give up and/or are blasting your company all over the internet, then have your attorney send them a letter. Hopefully, you have an attorney on retainer. If not, find the best one in town. (By "best," I mean "the one who knows the judge." He's usually the oldest guy in the oldest law office in town. He is so old he slurs his words when he talks, but just his name on letterhead makes people cringe. That is the one you want. Pay him whatever he asks for, trust me, it’s worth it.)

Ultimately, use your experience as an opportunity to grow and make your company better.

Discussion: Have you had an irate customer on a job costing more than $4,000? How did you handle it? 

This post was re-printed from Jamie's personal blog

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