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The customer is always right — even if he’s not

October 5th, 2018 by Bob Bly

Subscriber DC writes:

“After 23 years as a full-time freelance copywriter, I still
occasionally find myself in a difficult situation with a client.

“As you know, in their terms and conditions, most copywriters
stipulate that copy revisions are free of charge, but changes to
the assignment will incur an extra charge.

“I do this too, but sometimes there can be a slight grey area in
which a client can argue that a small change to the assignment is
actually just another revision. [This incremental additional work
is referred to as “scope creep.”]

“My client did this today, and I’ve ended up effectively working
3 extra hours for free. For goodwill I offered to ‘meet halfway’,
but the client — a very large company — now refuses to pay
anything above the quoted amount.

“More than ever, clients know how powerful they are and it looks
like I’ve got to grin and bear this loss. Perhaps there’s a
newsletter article here?”

Well, this covers two fundamental rules of the service business,
both of which are important.

The first rule: the time to discuss costs is before they are
incurred, not after the fact.

DC should have given his client a written estimate of the extra
hours the rework would take, and gotten them to agree before

Because he did not, I feel the client owes DC nothing for the
extra rework.

The second rule is: if it’s a choice between being too generous
to your clients vs. being a hard ass and looking out for yourself
first, you should err on the side of being too generous.

I’m not saying you should be a sucker and work for people for

But it’s almost always better, in case of disagreement or
dispute, for the outcome to favor the client, and not you, even
if it costs you in time, money, or both.

Being a large corporation, the client company here could have
given DC a significant amount of new business — many tens of
thousands of dollars — if they continued to use his services.

Therefore, eating 3 hours of DC’s time is insignificant when
compared to the potential income from this account.

And when you treat people in business fairly and favorably, word
gets around, and you build a reputation for being honest and

On the other hand, if DC fights the client on this, he will lose
favor with them, and they won’t continue to use him.

The great David Ogilvy likened the advertising business to a game
of chess and advised, “Guard your King and Queen; let the pawns


This entry was posted on Friday, October 5th, 2018 at 10:04 am and is filed under General, Success. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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