Recently I got this email from someone who had been accused of ripping off his customer…

Dear Ellen,

One of my customers called this morning and said I ripped him off. This was after my tech quoted a price, he accepted it, we did the work, and he signed for the work. This morning he tells me that his neighbor said that his guy (I don’t even know if his guy is a plumber!) charges a lot less. What do I do? I don’t want to take him to court.


“Sucker Punched”

Dear Sucker,

Deep breath. Ahhh. It’s going to be ok. It happens. It’s not fair…it’s life. Here’s how I would hope to handle that call…

First of all, negotiate for a bit of time to collect your thoughts. It’s hard to answer such a tough and personally challenging question, especially when it’s “sprung” on you.

“I understand that you are upset. Let’s make this better. Could I get some information from you? Name, address, and when we were out to your home? May I have a few minutes to pull the paperwork, and then call you right back?”

Let him vent. Keep your cool. And end the call politely.

It is in your best interests to get the whole story behind the job before you call back. The more time that passes, the worse off you will be…so move quickly. Aim for ten minutes. Use that time to talk to the employees involved and gather the paperwork. Perhaps there was a mistake in math, or in communication. Whatever happened, you want to put water on the fire.

Save yourself some grief and aggravation. Cut to the chase. Find out what he wants you to do…and do that.

“Mr. Smith, I wish it were not so expensive to run a professional plumbing company. The trucks, the insurance, the training, the inventory, the safety programs, the 24 hour phone service, the wages for top notch plumbers…it costs a lot to put this show on the road. Our prices are based on our costs of doing business. Our prices are fair, and we try to provide great service.

However, in this instance we have failed to communicate the value of that service to you and for that, I apologize.

Our goal is for you to be delighted with us, not for you to be upset. What’s it going to take to make you 100% satisfied with our service?”

Listen. Then do it. Plus a little bit more. This approach will avoid lots of wrinkles and gray hair.

Yep, it’s not fair. I just don’t think it’s worth spending too much time and energy being right. There is an old saying, “Convince a man against his will…he’s of the same opinion still.”

You don’t have to say your prices are too high. And it could well be – seems like it is – that you and your team could’ve communicated better. Learn from it. But don’t stew in it.

This shouldn’t happen often. When it does get through it, but don’t stew in it.

Do you think the customer was trying to get something for nothing, that he is part of the 2% of the population who may be trying to rip you off? If so, you may choose to not work for him again. However, don’t put any policies in place that will cause you to paint with a broad discriminatory brush. It just doesn’t happen that often if you are using ethical sales processes, good communication and you operate with love and care.

Sigh. Do what he asks…and a little bit more. Try it. Let me know how it goes.

Ready to get off the hamster wheel of too much to do and too little time? Try planning your business for fun and profits! In a weekend, you can change everything…