We have all heard "the customer is always right" so you might be thinking why would
you say no to a customer? Maybe you’ve been placed in this situation before
and maybe you haven’t, but as your business progresses this type of situation
comes up more often than you’d think. It usually occurs when a customer
requests a service or a product that you don’t offer.
This is the core of what
we are really cracking down on and we’ve provided questions you need to ask
yourself before you make that decision whether or not to serve a client.
Is it within the scope of
what you do?
The first thing you need to assess is whether
your client’s request is something within your scope of practice. For example,
just the other day, an inbound lead asked us about content marketing. This is
the core Ghostit’s business – to provide customers with automated content
marketing in the form of blogs, social media, and newsletters. Of course, we said
yes, but then they asked for website copy which is not something that we
This is where you need to stop and assess the scope of what your
client is asking for. Is this within your scope of practice, is this something
you can successfully deliver?
Let’s look at a different example – something
a bit more familiar. Let’s say you’re a brick and mortar business, a
restaurant. A customer walks in, sits down and asks you if you offer a dish
that off the menu.
What you need to evaluate is a) do you have the resources to
even prepare this dish, and b) does our staff have the ability to successfully
complete this dish up to standard.
The same principles apply to all types
of businesses. In our case, yes I did have the resources available to offer
website copy, but our team of writers although capable did not have the capacity
to work on website copy. Which pulls me to the next question.
The technical term for accepting these projects is called "Scope Creep." This is when you accept the one or two extra things and they continue to pile up as the customer or client requests additional features or services.
Have you done this before?
Is the request something that you have
explored and accomplished before? It doesn’t need to be exactly the same as a
service or product you’ve provided but was it similar enough for you to
accurately predict the expenditure of time and resources?
If yes, use your
previous knowledge to help inform you of the best decision to make. In my
example, I had previously provided website copy to a hand full of clients in the
past. Although successful, there was not enough gain for Ghostit to make it part of
the core product. We didn’t want to go back and forth with different services
because Ghostit is not a digital agency.
Website copy is also very interactive
in the sense that because it’s subjective by nature, it requires a lot of
consulting with the clients making it impossible to automate. Since Ghostit’s
philosophy and goal is to
, it doesn’t fit our
principles. Previous experience has provided me enough information to decide
that this was not a service I wanted to provide, so I ultimately said no.
What are your boundaries?
A very important component of running a business is knowing where your limits and boundaries are in regards to customer satisfaction. The customer is not always right in the sense that they do not need you to bend over backward to make them satisfied. Know and understand the extent of how much you will provide, and what that looks like in clear terms. Having defined boundaries around the scope of what you do is a sign of a maturing business.
What kind of projects do you want to take on?
What kind of projects will you absolutely not venture into, and what does the in-between look like?
Don’t be excited by the initial dollars offered. Take your time to accurately assess if the amount offered is worth the extra time, effort and resources it will take to successfully complete a project outside of your core offering. This is especially important for new entrepreneurs and small business owners.
It took a few bad
projects for me to look at this and I realize I had invested all these hours
and made a very little return on that. That’s a massive opportunity cost
because I could have been spending those hours building out and getting more
clients that would be interested in my core offerings.
You do not want to
detract from your growth, and you don’t want to focus a majority of your time
and energy on just a few clients. Keep your portfolio of clients balanced and
managed. Even if this means potentially turning down a big offer. Ask yourself
– is it worth the money if 25%-50% of my revenue is being generated by one
client? Sometimes the answer is yes if the contract is big enough so this is not a black and white answer.
This can happen, especially if you start customizing and specializing
more and more services for large clients. Instead of placing all your eggs in
one basket, it’s better to set yourself up so that in the event of a client
loss you haven’t wasted time and resources.
Do I know someone who can
do it better?
Turning away clients
do not have to be a negative experience. Being confident in saying no and
explaining why you don’t offer what they’re requesting can actually build trust
in your relationship. Other entrepreneurs have confided in us that the number one reason why they hate turning away people is that they’re afraid of
damaging their reputation or creating bad relationships.
My perspective that’s
been validated by experience and feedback is that clients will trust you more
if you are transparent about where your expertise lie. Not only are owning up
to the fact that you cannot deliver what they want to their expectations,
you’re confirming that your expertise lies solely in your core offerings.
Secondly, you can use
this opportunity to refer these clients to businesses that you know will
deliver. Providing resources and a professional recommendation means you’re
giving clients a viable alternative solution. Clients are more likely to come
to you later on when they do need your service because you were the person that
initially took care of them. Not only have you cultivated a relationship of
trust, you can also use this as an opportunity to get a referral fee from
businesses you’ve partnered up with.
businesses are common when it comes to referrals. You can get paid 10-15% of
what is called a finder’s fee. For example, if I had a client who needed help
with website design I would refer this person to Sean at
. If he
signs the client, I would be receiving a finder’s fee percentage of however
much he closed.
It’s exciting to have
inbound leads come in, especially when they are offering a dollar amount that’s
above what your services normally bring in. It’s important however to stay
realistic and to be able to critically assess whether or not you can provide
and deliver a service or product that is not only satisfactory to your client but also worthwhile for your time.
As a new entrepreneur or a business, or even older existing businesses,
it might be tempting to say yes to all opportunities and understanding how to
weigh which opportunities are the best for your business and your long-term
goals are fundamental to the success of your business.
As always we hope you enjoyed this
week’s podcast. If you have any questions or comments give us a shout at