What Do You Do With An Unreasonable Customer?

We did a job a month ago. A woman had moved into a new home (not newly built, just new for her). During the window cleaning, she claimed that my crew had broken a window screen, and broken the middle slat of a solar screen, and broken 2 bedroom blinds.

My crew leader, whom I trust implicitly, told me that the screen was already broken. He said the solar screen broke off in their hands as they removed it from the wall. He said that he had cleaned the bedroom windows, and there was no string to pull to lift the blinds, so he lifted the blinds with one hand and cleaned with the other. So, we didn’t break any of these items.

However, she vehemently claimed that we broke the screen, so rather than argue with her, my crew leader took her screen home, rescreened it and took it back.

Well, now she calls back a month later, and says we have to do something about the solar screen because it’s in front of the house and people see that the little slat in the middle is “off” (not lined up just right). She’s still claiming that we broke her bedroom blinds.

We can’t really go back and fix the slat in the solar screen, because it will eventually slide back, because it’s broke.

The way I see it, we have no responsibility for these items, but she’s claiming that we do. To top it all off, she is an Angie’s List customer, and could write a really horrible review if we don’t make her happy.

So… what would you do in this situation? Would you give her a refund so she can replace all these items? Would you go out and buy all of these things, take them over, and install them? Or would you tell her that our crew did not break them so it is her responsibility?

Brian Anderson
Master’s Window Cleaning

Usually with these type of customers I want to punch them in the face. But then I clear my head and think differently.

My personal decision would be to fix that slat, how much does it cost? if 10 or even $20 I would just replace it for her even though you
are not in the wrong. Just make her satisfied, I dont think its that unreasonable on your part.

this morning I did a $160 job that took 2 hrs. in the process I removed a slider and placed it on my catch towel, unfortunately the bottom was wet and dirty and the dirty water leaked through the towel onto the white carpet leaving a stain. I tried to scrub it out with some carpet cleaner she had under her sink and it got lighter but still noticeable. After I completed the job I pointed out to her the stain and said my services today are free, she offered to pay half but I insisted its free. Making my customers happy is more important to me then money.

Before you touch any window/blinds that appears to have damage in any area you need to point it out to the customer, most of the time people dont notice flaws in their windows until they inspect your completed work.

Things always happen , it just depends how we react to them.

I would do what ever it takes to get that 5 star review.

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Agreed. It is a s tricked policy of mine to point out any damage to customers before I touch that particular window. This way you cant be blamed for any damage that already exists. On a positive note customers like this tend to be customers for life if you take care of them. People like this have a hard time finding companies who will put up with them and when they find one that will they there is no one else out there who can take care of them.

yup especially if shes active on aniges list, her positive review will turn into thousands for your company. Just be sure never to reschedule her again so u dont have to deal with her crap.

Typical Angie’s list crowed, they hold a big bat over your head…

These people love to grind companies, seen it one too many times… Sick

I’ve had one problem customer out of hundreds on Angie’s list.

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… I’m a pussy, so I’d just make her happy with the crosspiece on the solar screen. Silicone it in place or something.
The bedroom blind I might even replace or share the cost, depending on the cost. And hell I’m such a pussy I’d
probably even clean her windows again instead of ditching her as a customer.

sounds like she knows her stuff is old and frail and is trying it on . if i was 100% sure these items were old and frail and that she knows it, i would make an effort to Really scare her . She would not be expecting this to happen .

an acquaintance of mine let off a shotgun almost next to an elderly couples window when he knew they were eating inside , they were giving him some grief -that stopped immediately afterwards. i dont own a shotgun,but there are other ways to scare a troublemaker without it being directly linked to you but enough to make them stay clear from then on .

With the years of experience that I have working in high end homes, I can smell trouble form a mile! Usually these costumers say keywords, and once you learn to read them its easy to stop them at there tracks. Be polite but firm! If they see weakness they will feed off of it and eat you alive! Ive seen it…

You may live in a friendly city, Down here LA/Hollywood is a nasty place, anyone with enough time on the field will agree with me…

But on the opposite site of town, Sweet friendly people!! They appreciate hard work, are understanding clients, have real expectations and are just easy people to deal with.

The good out weights the bad, but there are those red flag cities for me where I know I have to be extra careful in my work and in what I say and looking out for pre existing damage

Guys have to remember there are people out there looking for a free lunch ticket, stay aware at all times

Sal [MENTION=20847]Chesebro[/MENTION] this is a good topic, I’m going to open a new thread base on this comment in the members only section.

Me? I’m in NZ…suck it up and sort it…put it down to experience that when you quote in future similar issues can be noted, and waived before commencement of contract. Believe me the potential future word of mouth business is invaluable and should she still not be happy you can put her in your “Up against the wall after the Revolution” black book…oops you guys may not understand that…an 80s UK comedy…

Sal has a good point. There are always key elements which can tell you this customer is a no fly zone. Once it goes to that level, they have lost all respect for you and no longer see you as a person no matter how hard you work for them, so there is little sense in spending your hard work and efforts on placating a customer such as that. No matter what, the customer HAS TO PROVE YOU DID IT. Otherwise it is slander or libel. There is no sense in you having to work your butt off for a day or two to give that money over to someone who wants to threaten your reputation because their favorite ice cream flavor is pralines and jerk.

I treat these types of customers as a cost of doing business. If you get out of it for under a hundred dollars and get a happy customer then it’s a no brainer. I agree with you by originally telling the cusotmer that your guys saw the blinds broke originally and therefore didn’t break them. If they leave it alone after that then usually tragedy averted. But, if you say you didn’t do it and they insist that you did, it usually doesn’t end well if you continue to argue with them. They will definitely give you a bad review that will cost you way more in the long run than your 50 cost of replacing a tab and a blind or two. By the way, if you do decide to help her out then I would offer to pay for the blinds first. That way you don’t have to spend a lot of time going to the store and installing them.

I did a quote a couple of days ago for a customer who only wanted the exterior upper windows cleaned and the exteriors of the storm windows for said windows. I gave her the price of said job plus another quote for the same windows plus the insides of the storms. From experience, I know that with houses next to the ocean, the inside of the storms are usually worse than the outside because the salt water gets in, gets trapped, then baked on.

Well she said, that she only wanted the outsides done, and that she wanted me to shuffle the storms because “it would be too much a hassle to remove the storms.” To much of a hassle for whom? Sans storms is how[B] I prefer [/B]to clean the old divided windows.

Perhaps she may have a bunch of antiques, lamps, doilies in front of the window that would block the exit path of the storms. She didn’t explain that, however. It was basically my-way-or-the-highway with her.

I politely declined the job saying that “I’m sorry, I can’t work under those parameters.”

99% of the customers I come into contact with let me do my job how I see fit. Isn’t that the prerogative of the professional?

Sure [B]I could do it her way[/B], but where would it end. Is she going to start telling me what kind of soap to use. That I should use brass squeegees instead of aluminum because she read a Reader’s Digest article that said so?

I think as a professional you have to establish some boundaries and cut loose the 1% when necessary.

If you are already in the midst of doing the job, I would do everything necessary to resolve the issue / make the customer happy. However, obce the job was completed, I would put them in my do-not-accept-any-jobs-from-these-people file.

Why does that make you a pussy ? You would just be doing the right thing for your business . We all know she is one of those that is trying to get something for nothing ,or maybe she never really new those things wear broken till she inspected her windows . Either way it sux for the op I would just fix what ever she needs fixed an be done with it . She will give you a good review , an it will be worth it I’m the end

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Adopt the mentality of the phrase, “There’s always 3 sides to any story: your side, my side and the truth.”

On the “truth” end, or the neutral end, try to do the right thing first, not the right thing to you or her, just the right thing. Set aside your feelings and biases from it, for now. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” (Daniel Patrick Moynihan) I trust your foreman too, but let’s look past attribution of blame. Right now, look at the core issues and the eventual consequences. There’s stuff that’s broken and needs fixing. There’s the potential that the customer could really hurt your reputation. There’s also the chance that she’s just kicking and screaming because she can and others will recognize that. On the other hand, she could be somebody who’s easily appeased with lots of smiling, joking and some money in repairs. Or maybe she’ll take advantage of that and exploit you. Go through a couple more scenarios, just as a mental exercise, and then get down to your “net cost” conclusion. Is it easier for me to recover from bad press or from some repair costs? If you’re a PR & Marketing genius and generate lots of positive reviews on Angie’s List and other review sites, then it might be more productive to move on and keep generating more positive press and let this one customer be a lesson and a reminder. If repairing the damaged items, regardless of cause/fault, keeps you from losing leads and prospects who would have otherwise hired you, if not for the bad press, then it’s quite possible that repairing the items results in a lower net cost in the long run.

I really don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do know that it helps to look at things from a “numbers” point of view, as it can be a window into objective and neutral decision making. As food for thought, here’s the nature of working with customers: A customer will tell 4 people about a good experience at a restaurant, but that same customer will tell 10 people about a bad experience at a restaurant. The figures on that statement varies, but the basic idea remains that you’re the one on stage with a spotlight on you, not the customer. Now, don’t make any decisions based solely on this line of thought. Consider the other thought experiments below.

[B]Your Side[/B]
After looking at the “truth” side, swap your roles with her. If you were in her shoes, with her viewpoint, how would you act? Would you try to get a service company to do right by you if you were completely convinced that they had damaged your property?

[B]My Side[/B]
Finally, imagine her in your shoes. Would she “fire” you as a client? Would she drop you as soon as you became a difficult customer?

Whatever decision you make, do your utmost to frame it right. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s quite possible to tell her “Yes, I’ll repair the damages” and still end up with a very grumpy person. Fortunately, that means the opposite is true. You could tell her “No, I’m not repairing the damage” and leave her feeling like she’s the most important person in the world. It’s all about how you convey your decision, not the actual decision. This is a long post as it is, but I’ll give you a story to bring this point home.

There was a family seated in an area of a stadium that wasn’t meant for seating (they brought their own chairs). There was nothing that we could do to force them to move, but we could ask and we could ask the right way. We started off by apologizing to them. They had no idea why we were apologizing, but it put them in an unthreatened state of mind. We also made sure we were on the same level as they were, literally. We got on one knee and matched their eye level, making it clear that we weren’t trying to be in a dominant position. Then we explained why we were sorry, stating that it was our fault for not clearly marking the area as prohibited for seating. We then stated that we would assist them in moving to an area set aside for seating and that it would be a breeze as there were so many of us to help them move their belongings. We also made sure to let them know that it was only a short distance away. The family had previously refused to others, but had submitted to our request. Why? Well, there were a couple of things that made it work. We made sure that it was framed in such a way that it [I]seemed[/I] like there were no other options. They didn’t need to know that there was nothing we could do to force them to do things our way. To put it another way, why do you drive in the right lane and not the left? Because you’ve been instilled with the frame of mind that you don’t cross that double line. There’s literally nothing stopping you from doing so, but you’re possessed by a mental/internal barrier that’s represented by the double line. Same thing with the family. Additionally, we didn’t mention the inconveniences, we discussed the conveniences. By focusing on how there were so many of us to help them move and that it was a such a short move, that it was hard to refuse the attention and accommodation we were providing. We did our best to be on their side: we smiled, we didn’t stand above them and we introduced ourselves with an apology. There were some other things, but the point is that we framed the move as an advantageous one to them, even though they had felt very differently about this before.

[U]A beautiful picture can look ugly in the wrong frame and an ugly picture can look beautiful in the right frame.[/U]

[B]Other Thoughts[/B]
Moving forward, you’d do well to list off all damaged items at the time of the bid, and have them sign an Acknowledgment & Indemnification statement (in plain English, “I understand that these items were damaged before cleaning and won’t try to make you pay for it after you’re done cleaning”). You could list the damaged items on the bid itself (be detailed) and have the Acknowledgement & Indemnification statement attached to the bid, maybe adding it to whatever legal disclaimers already on the bid sheet, such as an Authorization statement (“By signing, I authorize you to do the work at the price listed on this bid”). Now, keep in mind, I’m not a lawyer, so if you’re looking into these things, you’re probably better off speaking with a legal professional who speaks more Legalese than English.

They’re out there, man. Way more common than 1 in 100 here.

about a month ago i got a new customer. tried to bargain me down on the phone but she ended up buckling with the proviso, "ok,lets see how it goes, you say you will be here at 9.30 ,ok thats fine"
well we roll up at 9.20 , she comes to the door “you said 9.30” , yes i did but we are on the ball today , "BUT you SAID 9.30 !"
at this point she backed down ,but i was ready for my next line "fookin hell lady whats wrong with you? [which iv used several times before ,that usually works! ]