Social Question

cak's avatar

Difficulties with a client, which way would you go?

Asked by cak (15767 points ) April 6th, 2011

Today I was set to turn everything over. She came to the meeting, flustered and added things that had never been discussed and will change the scope of the project. I told her that her changes were going to add a substantial amount of time and would change the cost of the project, she balked.

She calmed down, we worked on the list of changes and agreed to a new deadline. Also, she signed off on the changes in cost.

I just read an email from her, where she is accusing me of hiking up my prices, at the last minute and I should agree to these changes without a change in my bottom line. She went on to say she is considering pulling the project and finishing with a competitor.

Right now, I’m a bit too angry to respond. I have never missed a deadline, came close, but never missed one. All extensions were on her end. This client is very influential in the community and could cost me future projects with a bad reference or with no reference to potential clients.

I realize I can let her go and we’ll have to go to mediation over the termination of the project – lost wages and such; however, it’s the impact on my reputation that will really effect me. If I cave and do the work, basically for free, I will earn that reputation of being a pushover. If I don’t give in, I stand to lose her and lose potential work.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

66 Answers

optimisticpessimist's avatar

If you have a copy of the original agreement and it states the work you agreed to do and the price you would charge for said work, you could fax or email it to her. Hopefully, you have kept documentation on the delays caused by her, and that the original contract also states if changes are made new costs may occur.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Was your contract reviewed and approved by your lawyer?

And what @optimisticpessimist said about documentation.

Has this client caused similar issues with others?

Neurotic_David's avatar

My advice would be don’t handle this over e-mail. Do it face-to-face. It’s more personal, it’s less confrontational, and there are no ambiguities.

marinelife's avatar

I think that your reputation will stand up to any attempts to impugn it by her. People will know what kind of person that she is.

Tell her simply, in writing, that her changes will add to the work, and thus, of course, change the price. Put it to her in terms she could understand about her own business. For example, if she is a caterer: “This is the same thing as if you had already bought the supplies for a job and the client came in and asked to change the menu. You have already incurred costs.”

You really can’t give in here. Your entire business is on the line.

cak's avatar

@optimisticpessimist: I have everything. I document everything. I’ve been burned before, but this client is the first to really intimidate me.

@Tropical_Willie: Yes, about the lawyer. I never enter into a project without it going through an attorney. The client has the reputation of being tough, but to this point, things have been fine.

@Neurotic_David – That’s what I am trying to avoid. We are set to meet again, in the morning. I’m just trying to get my wits about me before the meeting. I also have a call into my attorney.

chyna's avatar

I’ll kick her ass for you.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

Well, then I say you are in a good position to stand your ground. She also already signed for the extras at this point. @marinelife is correct. If this is a smallish community, people will already know what kind of person she is.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@cak If you want to keep this client, stand by your documents and contract.

But be ready for a “S*%t storm” and let it happen.

nikipedia's avatar

It sounds like she’s being nuts, but if you assume good faith on her part (yeah, a big assumption…) is it possible she genuinely doesn’t understand that what she’s asking you to do is different from what you initially agreed to? Can you lay it out for her so she can see exactly how much additional work it is? As the customer she probably just sees the finished product and doesn’t think about what goes into it, right?

cak's avatar

@marinelife: Thank you. I know you are right, it’s that knot in my stomach that is making me ill. Plus my husband’s advice didn’t help.

@chyna Be in Charlotte, NC by 8am.

@Tropical_Willie: Thank you, I will dress appropriately for the S*%t storm.

@nikipedia: She’s pretty shrewd. I took my time and explained how this would impact the project. She repeated it, in her words and we talked about other changes. I don’t know. I think she’s probably my first huge test, as a self-employed person.

atomicmonkey's avatar

I’ve had a situation like this. Best not to respond until you’ve cooled down, and it sounds like you’re going to leave all that for the meeting. She sounds like a very reactionary, emotional person who’s making decisions out of fear and insecurity. There’s probably something going on behind the scenes – some pressure on her that’s making her act like a crazy bitch.
My advice for the meeting is to stick to your guns and remain cool at all costs. Defuse her fear at every opportunity with common sense.
To stay cool, I have this trick where I shift the perspective. View it like it’s already happened and I’m reviewing the scene in my mind, from memory. “This is just a scene from my life. Look how cool and in control I was.” Have this mindset throughout the meeting and it will help you through it.
I hate situations like this. Why can’t people just be reasonable?!

SpatzieLover's avatar

She calmed down, we worked on the list of changes and agreed to a new deadline. Also, she signed off on the changes in cost.I just read an email from her, where she is accusing me of hiking up my prices, at the last minute and I should agree to these changes without a change in my bottom line.

I’m wondering what happened in the interim. Did she discuss this with someone else that found it to be unreasonable—most likely because of the way she described it?!

I’d stay cool, calm and collected and be fully prepared walking into the AM meeting. I’d remind her that she signed off on the changes and the charges and that you are perplexed by her desire to have more than the original contract called for, for the same amount of money.

cak's avatar

@SpatzieLover: I’m wondering if she just accepted the changes, so I would start working and maybe would feel responsible to finish the work. She has more money behind her than I, she can afford litigation. She also is aware of her clout. I don’t know. I’m angry enough to consider any conspiracy theory.

@atomicmonkey: Good advice, I’m working on the calming down part. I’m happy that I didn’t respond. I tend to have a quick temper, so this is progress.

cak's avatar

Thank you, everyone. I needed to get it out there and start to calm down. Sometimes, it really helps to bounce it off of other people.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Gosh…well, if the client is very “influential in the community” that means she’s well known. Which means…her “tricks” should be well known. Just a guess that this isn’t the first time she’s pulled this? O. People already said that Ah…good luck @cak. Let us know…

chyna's avatar

I asked my brother how he handles this because this happens to him all the time. He’s a contractor. If he has to spend more time or buy more materials because of his own error in miscalculating how much material or how long it would take, then it’s on his dime. This rarely happens. If it is due to changes by the customer he charges them. When they first broach the subject of adding or changing something he grins and says “okay, but it’ll cost you” in a semi joking voice. Then he gets his serious voice and explains that the estimate was written up with all costs and that to change it will change the contract, the amount of time and materials and therefore the cost. Then he says “Do you want me to re-write the contract with the changes and new cost? I can get that to you tomorrow.”

tedibear's avatar

I can be in Charlotte by 6:30AM. @chyna and I can meet for a breakfast built for ass-kicking.

chyna's avatar

I am so there @tedibear!

creative1's avatar

A book that has helped me in many many different situations is called Lifescripts, it has different senerios in it and helps guide you in what to say in different situations. I usually find a similar issue then put it in my own words. I am sure you will have other issues like this and different ones being a business owner.

http://www.amazon.com/Lifescripts-What-Lifes-Toughest-Situations/dp/0020360487

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wait @chyna and @tedibear! I’m going with you!

tedibear's avatar

@Dutchess_III Come on already! And no, we’re not stopping in a half hour just so you can go to the bathroom. Go before we leave!

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m there! Can we….go by Mickey D’s first, please?

tedibear's avatar

Yes, but you can’t have anything to drink. Because we’re still not stopping for you to go to the bathroom.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK! I’m…I’ll just run in for a second to…go…get….a McDouble. You guys want anything while I’m there???!!!

WasCy's avatar

You’re smart to not reply to her while you’re still upset and ‘angry’. You have every right to be, of course, but that’s not going to lead to optimal communication, which is what you need here now, as you well know.

So, tomorrow, when you’ve had a chance to choose your words wisely and coolly, you need to re-open a dialog with her, obviously.

You know and anyone who has ever done project / development type work knows that changing the specifications late in the game after costs and schedule have been agreed to is always going to cost extra and take extra time. How could it not? You wouldn’t even have a project in the first place if that were not so. It may be that she isn’t as dumb as this message makes her appear, but she broke and wrote what she did while she was emotional and not quite in control. That’s another good reason to wait for morning.

So you need to start over with her, obviously. Either she really is stupid or supremely ignorant of what you have to do, or she was just upset. Your first problem is going to be trying to figure out which. If she’s really that stupid, then it’s unlikely that you can educate her or make her smarter. You may have go over her head in that case (assuming that someone this dumb isn’t running the whole show).

And if she just lashed out from her feeling of… whatever, “ambush?” if she really believes that… then you just need to tear up the agreements you made with her today and give her one of two choices:
1. You finish exactly the project you contracted for according to the schedule and with all deliverables as promised – and leave both of you unsatisfied, or

2. You have to do a better job of communicating to her why her changes will result in time and cost adders to the project, and renegotiate the change order/s.

Good luck.

cak's avatar

@Chyna: I think I was somewhere along those lines, in my response. It’s this little email that caught me off-guard. Tomorrow is the the day to stick to it, be firm, but talk her through it, again. Thank your brother for the advice.

@WasCy – GA. Thank you!

@Dutchess_III: You are correct, she has a rep for being tough – that’s putting it nicely; however, she also opens a lot of doors. I mean a lot! It’s one of those steps that you have to make, knowing that there could be issues. I’ve just never heard of all the issues. I’m learning. Behave in the car. I don’t want @tedibear or @chyna to put you out on the side of the road.

WasCy's avatar

I think partly because of the influence she could have on your future business you have to start the dialog with an acknowledgement of that fact, and then explain to her that you’re already doing this at the best terms and schedule possible because of your recognition of that.

You absolutely don’t want to reduce the price, because not only will it reduce your profit, of course, but it would make the work appear to be less valuable to her in the future. (If she gets the changes for free or greatly reduced cost now, then she’ll expect that again, and your work will appear to have little or no value.)

cak's avatar

@WasCy – That is exactly what I am afraid of…appearing to be less valuable (to her) in the future.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@cak Being “tough” and being a “cheat-with-attitude” are two different things.

I’ll behave…they won’t even know….um. For a while….

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Are you saying it may take a while for them to regain consciousness ?

Dutchess_III's avatar

@cak…. Wow….There is a local person here who is very intimidating. A few years this individual threw down some shit on me, and, in anger, and as a knee jerk reaction, I threw it right back (but…I didn’t have anything at stake, really.) He stepped back in shock, then a look of…grudging admiration crossed his face…and…we’ve been good ever since….Do you feel a distinct lack of respect for you coming from her? I don’t know if this is helping at all….

tedibear's avatar

@Dutchess_III – bring me a chocolate shake and a large fry. And yes, you will behave or there will be no chocolate chip pancakes at the IHOP for you.

cak's avatar

@creative1: I’m sorry, I meant to thank you for the link and suggestion. I really appreciate your time!

Dutchess_III's avatar

Okkkkaaay!!!! _running in to get food orders….and do something else…. And I’m baaaaack! Um…how long till we get to IHOP?

@cak Good luck… I’m sorry for….playing. I am. not my fault Good luck. It’ll be OK. It’ll be one of those life lessons you’ll be passing down someday. Just let us know.

tedibear's avatar

@cak – Thank you for letting us play on your question! In all seriousness, you will handle this with aplomb. You have gotten great advice and you’re smart enough to follow it. :D

@chyna Please give @Dutchess_III her 5 Benadryl now. Thanks. IHOP in 9 hours!

cak's avatar

@Dutchess_III & @tedibear: Really, it’s ok. I put it in Social for a reason. I’m the person that laughed at the thought of brain surgery…my reaction was, “But, of course!” I needed to cool down, along with hearing some fantastic advice, and this worked. No worries, my friends.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Just….take a deep breath. You’ll feel better in the morning…you will.

9 hours?? I have to pee NOW!!! But…I will seriously be ready for to open a can of whoop ass when we get there… Seriously, I wish I could deal with that woman, one on one, with nothing to lose….

Dutchess_III's avatar

Ok. Ok. I went pee, watched some PBS, and my head is much clearer and something is bugging me….you guys had come to an agreement…on the day of closing she shows up “flustered” and starts demanding thing you hadn’t even discussed….you tell her it will, obviously, cost more, she gets upset, you calm her down, she seems to understand why it would cost additional, goes away..then suddenly turns into a harridan again? My thought…she isn’t thinking for herself? There is someone out there saying, “No! You need to demand this and this!” And then, “You demanded what I told you and they’re saying it will cost MORE?! No! You go throw a fit!”.....someone is yanking her strings…..

cak's avatar

@Dutchess_III can I hire you?

Cruiser's avatar

Do NOT let her intimidate you! Those changes she proposed clearly change the landscape of the original scope of work and justifiably you are entitled to additional compensation.

My suggestion would be to request an immediate meeting to discuss these new changes. Acknowledge how the changes were a bit of a surprise and that you feel they need further review and clarification to see if there is a way you can meet her cost expectations.

During the meeting highlight the how and why the “changes” impact your ability to deliver a quality product on schedule. Quality and on time is a value added component to any item and if this customer want the quality to meet her expectations I am sure she will see the need to expand her budget or you should stand your ground and let her go scrounge around with your competition for a cheepened version of her original project.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, actually…I’m…um….wait!.....gotta pee!...”

Dutchess_III's avatar

You go @Cruiser!!! (If you hire me, I won’t go without @cruiser)! But..@cak already ‘splained it…the woman was cool when she heard it….then she got all bent out of shape again. We need to give “That woman” a name…

blueiiznh's avatar

@cak Some people simly love to push like a little kid to see what they can get away with till you say no.
While scope creep is normal and sometimes difficult to control, when it occurs (and allowed) it bears a cost.
Push back! Keep your cool.
Put it back to here with two options. Original one as agreed re-iterating the costs and timeline.
Second one that is new based on new requests, with new timeline and costs.
Period. Plain and simple. Let her make the choice. No need to get into a pissing contest as you are not in this to give things away.

augustlan's avatar

Just popping in to say good luck. You can do this, girlie! Also, I’m available for shin-kicking duty, if necessary.

tedibear's avatar

It’s 7:53AM, Chyna, Dutchess_III, Auggie and I are waiting at the IHOP. However, since you’re unlikely to need us, cak, we’ll save some pancakes and bacon for you.

blueiiznh's avatar

@cak Let me know if I need to call my Uncle Guido

marinelife's avatar

@cak Tell us what happens.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Well @cak did you bust her in the chops to make her comply?!

WasCy's avatar

I’ve mentioned this before. I know Boilermakers from Local 29 out of Boston. For $50 they’ll break her leg. For $25 they’ll break both legs.)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Cak…I almost did something I’ve never done before….turned on the computer and got on here in the few seconds I had before I left for work this morning specifically to tell you “You go! You have Tiger Blood and Adonis DNA!” I seriously thought about you from about 5 minutes after I got up and all through the day…how did it go?

Where’s the bathroom in this IHOP??

SpatzieLover's avatar

She’s creating dramatic suspense @Dutchess_III and has had us all waiting all day!

tedibear's avatar

@Dutchess_III – There is no bathroom in this IHOP! It’s all part of my nefarious plan to teach you to go before we leave!

chyna's avatar

@cak I hope all went well. Waiting patiently to hear.

Those chocolate chip pancakes didn’t last long. I was hungry againt at lunch.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@tedibear shit! And I mean, that. Seriously.

CAK!!!!! CAK!!!! CAK!!!! CAK!!!! Wait…you know….that kind of sounds like I’m getting ready to frow up….

Everybody here and in IHOP is gonna be in a world of hurt if you don’t show up soon @cak!! EVERbody gonna lose their appetite!

tedibear's avatar

@Dutchess_III There is a bathroom at the gas station next door. It looks sort of clean..

chyna's avatar

Isn’t it annoying when the key is attached to that metal pipe that weighs about 18 lbs?

cak's avatar

Things worked out!

My son was sick all night before the meeting, and a thought occurred to me – I could still do changes that were still what she wanted, but more cost effective. I worked on a outline of my ideas, we met and she was thrilled. I finished my meeting, went home to my sick son and napped with him. Then my husband got sick. Ick. My daugther and I are placing bets on who is next.

Thank you for all of your suggestions and humor, I really needed both!

SpatzieLover's avatar

Hooray! I was wondering where the cak you were…Hope your family gets well soon!

optimisticpessimist's avatar

I am glad it worked out for you.

cak's avatar

@SpatzieLover Half of my son’s class has brought home the same stomach bug. I’ve been cleaning, sanitizing and hoping that I don’t get it…I think my daughter is on the verge. Kids. Walking germs. Ick.

blueiiznh's avatar

@cak awesome awesome.

atomicmonkey's avatar

Well done, @cak. Glad it all worked out. Except for the sick germs. Nobody can be glad about those.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yay! So glad! Really glad!
And…I don’t even have to pee for once!

tedibear's avatar

@Dutchess_III Good. Because it’s time to drive home.

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther