When Bad News is Good News
I’m working on a new web site for cancer patients and their partners that will include a free service requiring a certain amount of special programming. I intend to hire someone to do it for me.
My ex-wife is in the business of providing programmers that do that very thing, so I contacted her and she put me in touch with one of her programmers. On a Thursday we talked about what I needed; he told me he would get back to me by Tuesday with some numbers. Sunday morning I got an email that said, essentially, he had not been able to do all of the work and that he would need a few more days.
Was I angry that it was taking him longer than he promised? Heck, no! I was glad that he had told me he would be late instead of simply sending the numbers when he was good and ready. Knowing that he would be late, I wouldn’t be depending on getting the information at that time and could plan accordingly.
I have a good friend that puts together vacation packages around astronomical events such as eclipses, transits, meteor showers, etc. He worked for weeks preparing a catalog of the tours he was offering so he could get them printed in time to mail so his clients could have them during the critical weeks in January when people tend to plan their vacation travel. The printer was short-handed due to illness and vacations, and the overworked staff that was available couldn’t handle the load; they made lots of mistakes.
The net result is that his catalogs were printed on the wrong kind of paper, and were four weeks late! Each time he called to get a status, he was told it would be a few more days. He suffered a double-whammy at the hands of that printer. The catalogs were printed on the equivalent of newsprint, creating the impression that the catalogs were a cheap throwaway-type of publication. And, the fact that they were late meant that my friend’s clients wouldn’t have them during the time when they typically make vacation decisions for the year. Needless to say, his bookings were way down from what they probably would have been, and it all may have been prevented if the printer had just been honest and said that he couldn’t get the job done on time. My friend could then have taken the printing somewhere else and gotten the catalogs in the mail sooner.
What’s the point? If you can’t meet the schedule that you have promised, tell your client as soon as possible! Will you lose business? Maybe. Losing the job is better than losing the client, which is the likely scenario if you lie. On the other hand, you will create tremendous goodwill and respect from your client, who may not be affected by the delay as in the previous programming example.
An even better solution than telling your client you will be late: if your client cannot wait, as in the previous travel catalog example, turn your bad news into good news by finding someone else who can help them get their job done on time.
Give the business to a competitor, Dave?? Have you lost your mind?
Not at all; it’s good business. Look at it this way: if you give overflow business to your competitor, he may do the same for you. In fact, you can have a formal or informal agreement to that effect. That way everyone wins: you win your customer’s respect, the competitor wins the job, and most importantly, the customer wins because he gets what he needs on time.
And if your customers don’t win, you’ll never win.
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