Hagglers, Time Wasters and Freeloaders - Small Business Nightmares
by Jo Shaer, on February 10, 2013
It's been an interesting couple of weeks and I hope this doesn't sound like carping but, for the small business woman, some clients can become a nightmare.
And, since Spring is the time to detox the body, I don't see why a business shouldn't be the same.
There are some clients who are dead wood. Sure, they pay each month - but, usually, it's grudgingly.
And, for that small monthly income, the business owner gets a whole load of unbillable hassle. Which, worse still, takes them away from the work of more valuable clients.
Now I have no objection whatsoever to clients asking questions. I actively encourage it and go out of my way to provide answers, education and enlightenment. My goal is to empower my customers. So, if I can write a blogpost that will allow them to do something themselves, I do it and send them the link. I work on the basis that, if I help them to do the small things for themselves, they will trust me to do the bigger things with their best interests at heart.
However, there are some who only want to know how much it will cost and whether you can do it more cheaply if they badger you.
As a result, every quote is met with a query to the point that it is almost practical to factor in the additional time that will be spent explaining why each element of the quotation costs that amount and reassuring the client that it cannot be done cheaper - because you will always spend at least 30 minutes involved in exchanges of emails on the subject.
And if you do relent and cut your margins back to the bone? Well, trust me, bitter experience has shown that Google or Facebook or Windows will make you pay for that weakness big time. You can guarantee that if ever you do someone a favour over price, the software will malfunction or there will be some element that has never gone wrong before but chooses this occasion to decide to have a hissy fit. When your time estimates are shot to pieces, you end up doing a lot of work for nothing.
I guess, at the end of the day, it's a question of trust.
I do lots of stuff for my regular clients for free. I'm in the back end of their website and I see something needs doing, so I do it - because I'm there and they're regulars and it will only take a few minutes. I don't shout about it, I just do it. To me, it's part of the goodwill for people who pay up every month because they know that I have the same thirst for the success of their business as they do.
So I don't expect customers to quibble every quote for additional work they may have requested - if it's sufficient to require a charge on top of the regular fee, then it's going to be more than a few minutes work.
Sometimes you need to have a cull of the hagglers - because otherwise you will never get any work done for those people who do pay regularly and on time, because they appreciate what you do for them.
Time Wasters and Freeloaders
These tend to be telephone or email enquiries - usually people who have found us on the internet.
They want to get as much information as they can for free! So they will pump you for answers to specific enquiries. Now, at Lollipop Local, we're very helpful. We do give free advice to small businesses because we believe that, by building that trust, they will come back to us for the bigger stuff.
But very rarely do they leave a positive comment on the blog post that provides the answer to their question or say thank you on our Facebook page in return.
Worse still are the ones for whom you do a free website review - and who then come back wanting more free information, with clearly no intention of ever employing you as a paid supplier because they disappear when you put your foot down with the reminder of what they have already had gratis and that there is only so much that can be given away, when it took so many hours to accumulate that knowledge.