Before we begin our discussion of surprisingly angry clients, I wanted to first give a very warm welcome to all of those joining us after LuAnn Live! It was such a pleasure meeting all of you and I’m so glad that you’re here! I hope you find a great deal of value in today’s, and every, post. And please leave a comment below to say hello!
Don’t Leave Your Clients To Ponder Their Possible Charges
Now let’s get to it. Surprisingly angry clients. While I was on my way out of Short Hills after LuAnn Live and on to Brooklyn to see my two sisters, I had scheduled myself to get an Uber at 2:00. At 1:45, mid bite into an incredibly juicy and messy burger, I got a call. “I’m here in the front.” Uh oh, he’s here 15 minutes earlier than I asked. I asked him if I could take a couple more bites and he said sure. So I scarfed down what I could, got my luggage out of storage, and got into the car. The whole thing from me getting his call to me getting in the car took a total of maybe three or four minutes.
Once I was in the car, we were driving along and I noticed he was scrolling through his phone and choosing a new route. Ok, no biggie. Then, I noticed we were going through a lot of tolls. A LOT. I thought, uh oh, I hope I don’t have to pay these. But then thought, but would he really be paying these? I can’t imagine he would. And of course Uber wouldn’t either. I was getting nervous but didn’t say anything because of course maybe there was nothing to worry about. So I just tried to ignore it. Once I arrived, I got out of the car, put the tip I wanted to pay into the app, and went to my sister’s apartment. Thinking nothing more of the entire transaction. Until I got my bill.
Surprising Charges Mean Surprising Anger
When I later opened my email and happened to look at my bill, I was charged $94. For a trip that was stated to be $64 when I scheduled it. I was furious and confused. How could this have possibly happened? How did my charge go up by $30 without me having any knowledge at all about it? I looked at the breakdown.
$4 in wait time. He was 15 minutes early, and I was penalized for it. This first of all, definitely shouldn’t be something that a customer should be paying for. Because otherwise what’s the point of scheduling. If he had arrived at 2:00 as scheduled and I wasn’t ready, ok, that’s my fault. But before the agreed upon time, that just doesn’t seem fair. And he should also have told me that he was going to charge me to wait when we were on the phone. Then, the big one. Tolls and fees, $44. It said “the driver took an unexpected route and therefore the tolls were adjusted.” Just like I had seen, he scrolled through his phone and chose a very toll heavy route. For what reason, I’m not sure. But it’s what happened, and I was the recipient of this now huge and unfortunate bill.
Not surprisingly, I was angry. I shouldn’t be charged for him being early. And I definitely shouldn’t be charged for him picking a different route, and causing me to pay a much higher price than the price that I agreed to pay. Especially when Uber’s motto is “Know the cost before you go.” But what really made me mad? What really, really made me furious and frustrated with the entire thing? Was that these were all a surprise. None of this was discussed with me beforehand. And I was given no choice in the matter. It just “happened” to me and I had to foot the bill.
Your Clients Are Just As Angry About Not Being Warned, As They Are With The Charge Itself
Your design clients are likely to do the same. When they don’t know that a certain charge is coming, or don’t understand the types of charges that might “surprise them,” they’re likely to get angry. Now in my Uber situation, I think he was actually being unethical and unfair. Charging me for things that were just not necessary or right (and I went back to Uber and stated this and they did refund the extra charges). But even if you’re being ethical and fair in your charges, clients are likely to pushback on things that they haven’t been warned about.
For example, clients of course will know that they have to pay for furniture, for tables, for fabrics, and for labor. But they may not realize that you may charge for your time to address a problem with the plumber (of course though, if the issue was caused by you, you definitely don’t want to be charging time for that). Or they may not realize that after everything has been revealed, there’s still the final invoice coming. Whatever is out of the “norm” of what you charge for, is likely to come as a surprise. And you want very, very few surprises when it comes to a great client experience. And the ones you do have, should be 95% good ones.
The Only Surprises Your Clients Should Have are the Good Ones
So how do you avoid these surprise charges and surprisingly angry clients? The same way you handle the whole “things might go wrong” discussion. You keep them from being a surprise. You tell them early on. You explain surprise charges early on. When you’re in the earlier stages of the project where you’re going over the proposal and budget, you need to start talking charges and fees. You need to let clients know some of the charges that might “surprise” them and explain why they’re happening and why they’re standard. The more you can prep the clients for the worst, the better. You don’t want to state it that way of course. It should be in a much more upbeat way, but it is still prepping them for the worst.
It can sound something like this, “Now as we’re getting into the project and discussing budget and our services, I also like to discuss the charges that sometimes surprise clients. But are a standard part of a design project. Such as…” and then name them. It doesn’t need to be a laundry list. But it does need to be comprehensive enough that they understand what’s coming and what they can expect, and when. You never want clients to feel hoodwinked or blindsided by what you’re charging them. So telling them ahead of time is the best way to ensure that that doesn’t happen. And to ensure that you get a lot less pushback and angry calls or emails asking why in the world they were charged for x,y, or z.
Clients feel most taken advantage of when they weren’t told something beforehand (or if they should have had a choice in something but weren’t given one) and then have to suffer the consequences later. Clients want to feel at least somewhat in control. Which is completely understandable. You are the lead on the project. And the manager of the budget. As you should be. As a design professional, you know what’s best. But it leaves clients feeling a little bit vulnerable and hesitant sometimes, and gives them the feeling that things are just happening to them and they have to accept it. So prepare your clients for what’s coming. Give them a choice when necessary and appropriate. Let them know that they are still in control as well. As they do have the power to stop the project from continuing on at any moment. So remember that, prepare them, and you’ll both be a lot happier in the future.
If you’d like even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client service that gets you higher fees and profits, visit the Client Service Consultation page to find out more!