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Saying ‘no’ to your customers is still how to provide great service

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I have worked in client-facing roles in the retail and hospitality industry and am now a freelance writer. From all three roles, I quickly learned that there are often times when the customer is most likely not right.

But what do you do when they die wrong?

As a service-oriented business owner, I take pride in providing exceptional customer service, and I have learned to have a consistent and robust customer experience. Here are my tips on how to walk that delicate path as a service provider.

1. Do not fall into hiding

In order to stabilize your position, you need to be prepared. Catching a caregiver is a one-sided ticket to take advantage.

Here is an example. I had a contract to write a copy on a website. I followed all the instructions (including vague and honest weird ones like “Write sexy like James Bond”). I got a good response from the client and the project was over.

The client then “wants to talk.” They insisted on making a phone call at a funny time and refused to speak by email. I woke up at 6am for the call and they immediately informed me that they were working with two copywriters at the same time and they preferred the other person’s copy. No problem. Except that they were reluctant to pay me what we agreed to even though the work was done as I had ordered.

It is hidden. I already knew it but I was too confused to do much about it. They asked for an immediate answer, and since I was still building my client base, I wanted to agree. I said yes, I would buy at a discounted price and withdrew only half of the money I had reasonably earned.

It’s a mistake: there is no right and only answer – call first and ask for a discounted price. We had a deal, I handed in, I even got positive feedback. I did not participate in any competition; It was a job and I did it.

Since then, I have had a few (now) clients who have tried to bully me with last minute calls or magnify meetings to try to increase the scope of work without pay. I stick to the email and it hides from being hidden.

If you’ve ever been blocked, try to say something about it: “Consider it for me, and I’ll get back to you via email later today.” Sometimes you decide if you are fair – that’s good – but it’s up to you to decide.

2. Communicate standard policies in advance

If you communicate your principles with the bat, something you can explain while standing on your ground will be clear and thus unclear.

For example, my standard policy is to include one round of revisions that will allow my prices to fluctuate up to 15%. I formulated this policy because I had clients who approved the outline and asked for a number of edits to completely revise the entire post — they do not know what they want, and even if they do it with good intentions, it costs me money.

Sometimes clients still ask for several rounds of editing. But I will stick to my policies and let them know that they can use the existing version or I can charge more for additional amendments.

For your most important principles, I suggest reminding clients several times: once they sign up first and then start your first “project” with them again (for me, then I present my first draft).

3. Keep everything in writing

I basically run my entire business by email. There are several reasons for this:

  • It’s easy
  • It prevents the hiding I mentioned earlier
  • Most importantly, it allows me to keep a record of all communications

There is no confusion when you can literally point out what I or the client said in the email two months ago. Even after the client makes a call, I request the client to send a written summary of everything we have discussed and verify that the details are correct.

Of course, if you are in a position to show your clients that you are right, do it carefully. Here is my response:

I totally understand where you are coming from, but for reference, I have attached the original email that approved this blog post being 1,500 words. If you have any further questions please let me know.

You can protect yourself while ensuring that no one tries to pull the fur on the client’s eyes as no one can argue with it.

4. Know your boundaries in advance

Boundaries are hard: in life, in the office, and especially when you are running a business. When I started my business I had no boundaries. I felt like I could not say no – it cost me money and it was dangerous to my mental health.

When I realized what was going on, I realized that I had to officially set some boundaries. They do not have to be part of the policy that my standard clients face, but I do have to write them down for myself and stick to them.

I began to describe what I always said yes (e.g. NDA) and what I always said no (e.g. non-competitive). this means:

  • I do not get Decision fatigue I’m not always sure it’s fair to face a client’s request – I follow my own limitations
  • I have a clear understanding of what is good for me and my business, and I do not accidentally lose it for edge cases.

For example, I had a client who, for example, sent me an e-mail, mentioning one of their competitors in a post I posted with my by-pass. That quote was added by my author – I have no idea what the client is talking about.

They asked me to remove that reference. I said I can’t: my author put it there, I don’t have the content. They asked me to sign up for a non-competitive competition “at our discretion at any time” for They Ju and indirect competitors. This is a client who hired me for 3% of my annual income and they wanted complete control over my client relationships.

I really like working with this client, but I said no. That meant I lost the client. It struck: it was at the beginning of the plague. But a long time ago I had a clear limit that I had established myself — non-competitors — so I knew I was making the right choice.

It is always worth reviewing to make sure your boundaries (and your policies) are still relevant and meaningful to the current stage of your business, but do not do it too often, then they will not help you stay stable anymore.

5. Keep in mind that walking clients are not suitable

Not all clients will fit into your business – otherwise it is almost impossible to deliver the experience they are looking for.

If you have a potential client who is trying to give you something that does not match your capabilities, your contract, what is available, or disagreements, leave after you say no.

I had a client requesting more content than I had for a month. I told them I could write two blog posts for them but I could not do the web version they asked for. Even after I said no, they continued, accusing me of “allowing greed to block my blessing.” I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and explained how it takes four times the site copy for blog posts, but even then they said I had to shorten my Christmas vacation to make time.

That’s the end of that server connection – never mind. Losing a client is never easy, but if it doesn’t fit, you’re better off.

More than 90% of the clients I worked with as a freelance writer were unique, and working with all of my clients who have been retained for a long time is a dream. But there will always be clients with unreasonable expectations. Others try to take advantage of you. And some will misread or misunderstand something where you risk a potential problem.

Knowing how to be proactive and consistent after the fact – at the same time providing excellent customer service will allow you to run your business smoothly.

This article by Anna Guterre was originally published Sapphire Blog Republished here with permission. You can read the original article Here.

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