The secret to having happy customers is to do what you can to not only meet their expectations but ideally to exceed them. One of the most common areas where conflict arises between a business and a customer is differing expectations, mainly due to poor communication. This can lead to confusion and conflict and a whole lot of angst.
People often have different recollections of a discussion or meeting. Typically this is because there is no summation at the end of the meeting to clearly spell out what happens next. Summarizing a meeting to clarify expectations is a good practice and a really smart way to avoid issues.
When submitting quotes and proposals, spell out your terms and conditions. Make sure there are no surprises for anyone. At the same time make certain you list your customers expectations as well. If you can't then you may not have asked good enough questions. If we identify problems or discrepancies early on, issues can be resolved quickly.
I recently worked with a business where the sales manager struggled to have conversations about payment terms with his customers. He was selling high priced items, some up to $80,000. He could sell the items, but he glossed over the payment terms, with the specific details in the fine print. His customers would get seriously upset when they received a phone call from the businesses accounts department chasing large payments that they didn't know we due.
The bottom line is he should have said very clearly, "these are our payment terms, will they work for you?". Instead his customers felt ambushed, leading to many sales falling through.
Another important consideration is to make people aware of any guarantees that you may have and what the conditions of these guarantees may be. We have all been burned by small print, especially on things like insurance policies. It is extremely frustrating and aggravating when a business hides behind the small print of a term or condition.
For longer projects, revisit expectations as often as you need to. Ensure that you are asking your customers if they are happy with the work you are doing on a regular basis.
On your website ensure that you have your terms and conditions readily available for people to read and clarify.
Last but not least, when you are including your terms and conditions on your printed material and even on your website, there is nothing wrong with making the language positive and even fun. Don't try to be a lawyer or try to make it sound too technical. Use first person, explain why you have certain terms and conditions and even have some fun.
Any business that is really good at managing expectations and spelling our any terms and conditions in a very clear and open way, will have far fewer conflicts and disputes and that has to be good for business.
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Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.