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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #67: April, 2009

Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of the Society for Advancement of Consulting, LLC

If a buyer is unhappy with you:

  1. Make sure it's the buyer, and make sure you hear it personally. Don't accept third-party reports, and don't give a rap if it's someone down the line who feels threatened.
  2. Find cause, not blame. Did you promise something unmet, or did the buyer expect something unpromised? What happed, factually?
  3. Ask for examples. If you're told, "Staff wasn't involved," ask, "Why do you say that?" Don't defend, just ask for observable evidence. "If you're told, "We didn't meet the deadlines," ask, "Which ones and by how much?"
  4. Ask what you can do to correct the situation. Don't offer anything. Find out what the buyer thinks is effective and agreeable remedial action.
  5. Don't immediately worry about fee. Focus on achieving reasonable buyer goals, and you'll get your fee (or won't have to return it).
  6. Ask yourself if this is a pattern. If you've heard this twice before, it's an overwhelming probably that it's your fault.
  7. Document what's needed to rectify the situation, and ask, "If we accomplish this, then you'll be delighted?"
  8. If you have to return money, do so. You may ask to do it at the same frequency it was paid, e.g., monthly or two installments, etc.
  9. Prevent this from happening by being laser-sharp on expectations. For example, with a retainer: "You understand that I'm available during Eastern business hours by phone, fax, and email, and you'll get a reply within 24 hours if I'm not immediately accessible, but that the onus for the communication is with you. That is, under this arrangement, I do not initiate contact to you, I'm strictly responsive."
  10. Don't worry too much about "word getting out." Contrary to most consultants' fears, clients don't talk to each other, and clients seldom mention problems to your prospects, because they don't want to admit to making a bad decision. Don't focus on damage control, focus on pleasing the unhappy buyer.
  11. Don't rend your garments and tear your hair. We all make mistakes.

Do your best to make good and move on. Stuff happens

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