Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Client Miscommunication

7:25 AM Comments 0

A few weeks ago I had to deal with one of those inevitable and unpleasant issues that all business owners eventually face, mis-communication about a job’s scope of work and the exact details.

We just wrapped up a small job, with a remodeler, where we built and installed a melamine pantry, four medicine cabinets, a small vanity, and a linen cabinet. In the early days of the project, the client only had two medicine cabinets on the order, one with wood doors, and one with a mirrored door. Before any construction began, a sales order was provided, as were 3d renderings of the 5 pieces. A week or so later, two more medicine cabinets were added to the job. When this change was made, I revised the sales order to show two additional medicine cabinets and included the 3D renderings of all the mirrored door medicine cabinets, since all three were to be different heights and widths and depths. I did not re-send the 3d renderings of the vanity, linen cabinet, or the medicine cabinet with wood doors, since no dimensions had changed.

The confusion arose when we showed up to the job to install the cabinets and were told that we had one to many mirrored door medicine cabinets.

I was a bit perplexed, since I thought the sales order and drawings had been quite clear as to the scope of work and the detail of each piece. The remodeler informed me that he did not look at the revised sales order when I re-sent it, and that he thought the three renderings of the medicine cabinets I provided were the three he wanted, even though all those renderings clearly showed mirrored doors.

Before we go any further, let me say here that, from what I can tell from the short conversation I had while on the job site, the remodeler was indeed surprised to see four medicine cabinets. I do not think that he was purposely playing dumb to cover a known mistake on his part, but a known or unknown mistake costs money for someone, and it was now time to decide who that someone was going to be.

I figured I had three options. I could dig my heels in the sand, and insist the remodeler pay for all four medicine cabinets, which may have been a lesson in futility and would probably have soured any further working relationship. I could just let it go and eat the cost without voicing my opinion of the situation, or the remodeler and I could try to reach an agreement where neither one of us feels like we were taken advantage of.

Once the job was fully installed, we discussed the situation and I quickly realized that he did not feel responsible for the mis-communication that lead to the extra cabinet.  Obviously, I felt like I was in the right, and felt like I had a history of e-mails to prove it. After a bit more discussion, I realized that it was getting nowhere fast, even in an attempt to get him to accept partial responsibility, and I agreed to put this behind us and remove the charge for the extra medicine cabinet.

Did I just allow myself to get taken advantage of? Did I show good business decision making? I look at it this way. I would rather eat the $280 cost associated with the extra cabinet, potentially preserve a business relationship, and move on to more profitable endeavors, than argue until I am blue in the face about how I am right and he is wrong. In the future, if I do more business with this remodeler, I will know to be more careful. Plus, the approaching work week will present me with another slew of issues that I will have to deal with!