The Customer Is Never Wrong — But Is It the Wrong Customer?

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

“Can I talk to you personally?” asked Linda. She seemed a little hesitant, so after we ran into each other at a networking event recently, we sat down over coffee. Linda had given some marketing work to a mutual colleague, Ingrid, whom I’ve known for many years.

“I have to tell you that, categorically, I will never refer another piece of business to Ingrid ever again,” Linda stated. “The work she did was terrible, she totally overcharged me, and I know enough about what needed to be done — but it didn’t make sense for me to do it myself.” Turns out that Linda is in a field that Ingrid doesn’t usually work with . . . so there may well have been nuances Ingrid wasn’t aware of.  Ingrid was lucky: Linda chose to complain to me (and probably a number of others). She could have chosen to sue Ingrid and complain to other people.

Whether or not Linda is right is irrelevant. She saw me and wanted to vent. But there’s a lesson here for Ingrid (whose name has been changed to protect her business) — and for all of us.

Having known Ingrid for a long time, I see, sadly, that this is a pattern of hers. As I discuss in my program, “How to Train Your Clients to Pay You,” one of the primary reasons that clients don’t pay — or don’t give you any future work — is that they weren’t happy with what you did. And Ingrid has run afoul of this many times. She routinely complains about how difficult it is to get business. But she makes it more difficult for herself by taking on clients where:

  • She doesn’t know the industry
  • She hasn’t had experience with the potential client’s needs
  • The client’s budget is incompatible with what she wants to charge.

As a result, Ingrid is plagued with clients who show up for one project and never return for another. So she is constantly on a “hamster wheel,” seeking new clients. And while Linda, as the customer, was not wrong, that didn’t make her right — that is, the right fit for Ingrid.

Does that sound familiar?

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