Do you recognise this…
An important customer phones up and asks someone at your firm to do something for them…
“Can you just do this for us…. “ or “Rather than do it that way, it would suit us if you did it this way instead…” (i.e. the non-standard way).
Your people are well trained. They do everything they can to delight the customer… go the extra mile. So with a big smile they agree.
But somewhere in the process the customer doesn’t end up paying for this extra service. You sort of hoped he would, but nobody mentioned anything about it so the job gets done and no invoice is sent… or if it is, the customer is furious because the charge comes as a surprise.
I will let you into a secret. The customer wasn’t sure whether you would charge or not. But they weren’t going to mention it if you didn’t.
Here is a little phrase we train our clients to use that solves the problem. Anytime someone asks you to do something that is outside the normal contractual arrangement, the very first thing your people should say is:
“I am sure we can help with that, let me work out a cost for you”… all one sentence without taking breath.
Get them chanting it out loud at your next team meeting until they say it without thinking.
This little phrase solves the problem in three ways:
Firstly: it puts the principle of charging for the service squarely on the table so no one is in any doubt at the outset.
Secondly: by using the word cost rather than price, it reminds the customer that there is a cost to you associated with providing the service.
Thirdly: it gives them a chance to argue if they want to, before anyone is committed to doing anything…. and that is much fairer to both parties.
A colleague of mine many years ago, having overheard one of his team giving away something, waited until he had put the phone down and asked him to join him outside the front of the building. Looking up at the company sign, he asked the somewhat confused lad “Can you tell me where it says ‘Registered Charity’?”
The moral of the story is it is always best to let people know what they have to pay for (and what they do not) as soon as possible. No one likes nasty surprises.