If you need to “set boundaries” with clients, you have the wrong mindset!
I went to get my haircut recently. When I walked in, the young lady behind the reception desk barely looked at me, and I could barely hear her ask me how she could help. I might not have known she was talking to me, if I wasn’t intent on seeing if they could fit me in as a walk in. She asked me to take a seat. I figured that meant I’d be up soon, because normally if it’s going to be a while they tell me. I waited for 45 minutes, and from the greeting, to the time I was actually called to get my haircut, the customer service was awful. If I did not already know and love my hair person there, I doubt if I would return to this place.
As I was sitting and looking at the surroundings I noticed a few things.
- One sign explains that if you are more than five minutes late for you appointment you will be treated as a walk in.
- Another sign explains that you cannot leave tips on a credit card, and if memory serves, the same sign had a minimum for when you can use a credit card at all.
As I was observing these things, I noticed an internal reaction I was having. The environment felt almost hostile. Then I thought to myself, “well they’re establishing boundaries,” but as a customer, it didn’t leave me with a very good feeling.
The it hit me.
What if they turned all of these things around, and made a sign like this?
- Yes we take credit cards
- Yes you can leave tips on your credit card – the more the better 🙂
- Please be on time for your appointments, we will do our best to accommodate you, if you’re late!
Do you see the difference? That leaves you with a very different feeling doesn’t it? They could raise their prices, and offer these things. People are always willing to pay more for outstanding service.
As a service provider I have to put myself in the shoes of my customer. I think of the experiences I have with the businesses that I patronize. The ones, where I have the best experience, are the ones that always tell me, “yes.”
I’ve had experiences where someone asks me if I can do something, and I say, “sure I/we can do that!” Then I go and panic and say, “ok how the hell are we going to do this?” Therein lies the fun. It’s time to get busy, and time to get creative. The bottom line is, once we figure out how to deliver whatever this is, to the one client, now we have something new we can offer to all clients. This client gets it included, for others there might be an extra fee. Depending on what we’re talking about, you might even tell the existing client, that you can do it, but that you need to charge extra for it.
This week I had a client ask me about having someone come in once per week to help with the client’s personal medical bills. It’s not normally something I would ever do, but I didn’t say no, and I told them I’d need to charge extra for it. The client understood.
Next I discussed with Erica, who handles their bookkeeping. She wasn’t excited about it, and I don’t blame her. I’m not excited about it either, but I’m still not saying no.
I got back to the client and said that I would come in personally at first. My intention is that once I see what needs to be done, I will automate this process, in such a way that it doesn’t need to be done in person. More than likely I’ll create a system where we get the medical bills scanned, and in a platform where they can be discussed online. I know that the basic process is that the bills need to be verified as to whether or not the billing is correct, before they get paid. This needs to be done quickly, so bills aren’t paid late. The office manager doesn’t have time to sit there scanning. It might be that I give them my UPS account # so they can overnight these things to me. If she sends on a Monday, I can scan it by Wed, and we can review on Thursday. If I charge an extra $500/month, and cover the shipping cost, then it’s worth it, and it’s efficient. The value to the client, is the medical bills get paid on time, and he never has to worry about it ever again.
This is but one example. I could tell the client, “no we don’t do this,” and the client would understand, but when I bend over backwards like this, there are multiple benefits. The client becomes a client for life, and I have a new system for getting things done that works, and it can work for anyone.
One caveat to all of this. It’s one thing to go the extra 10 miles for a client, who’s asking for help. It’s quite another to put up with abuse. If your client is abusive, it’s not about setting boundaries, you simply put them on the chopping block. No one deserves abuse. Even if you screwed up badly! You have to be accountable, and take responsibility, but no one gets to abuse you. When it comes to abuse, you cut it off, and that’s it.