You Can; But Should You?
There is a difference between things you can do and things you “should” do. For instance, just this past Friday, a client changed his schedule around due to something beyond his control. This change in schedule required me to cancel several other appointments and reschedule several more—with a revenue impact for my business. At the time I told them this meant those days would be billable. Today the client called to say that things had changed again, and again due to circumstances beyond his control, and that he didn’t need those days. I could bill him for those days; but I didn’t, and I won’t. Why? I may be able to rebook the time; I may not. But when it comes down to it, I feel the right thing to do is to not bill the client.
Short Run or Long Run?
I may never work with this client again on this project (or on another), but I do business based on my own particular code of conduct. In this case, my belief is that I could bill for lots of hours and days to a client who knew the terms and conditions of the agreement, but I believe in relationships and this is about a relationship with the client. Call it karma, but doing the right thing is important for the long-term health and welfare of a business. Maximum billing isn’t always best for a business’ bottom line. Sometimes building good will and a sound reputation for a code of conduct is much more important.
What Does It Cost?
Have you ever bought a product or had a service performed,and almost immediately something went wrong? Like driving a car off the dealer lot and having the value plummet … and then finding out the car is a certifiable defective lemon? You didn’t do anything wrong, but there you are, stuck, and the seller won’t help you out. How do you feel? What does it do for your mindset—not only about that particular retailer or service provider—but the whole “experience”?
The cost isn’t just in that transaction, but in the next, and the next, and the next, and the loss of confidence, trust, and willingness to do business in the future. You think and act differently in every transaction going forward, whether you consciously admit it or not.
The Right Things—Just Because
When you do the right things, they do come back to you. You do them because you can AND you should. Not because they get you anything in the short-term, but they ultimately do. The right things pay a dividend. Doing things because they are right is a tremendously powerful marketing tool. People talk, and they talk about the people they trust. People refer to the people they trust. People help the people they trust. The power in doing the right things is incredible. Talk about viral marketing: The right things are powerful tools in viral marketing. People get to know you—the real you, the genuine you, the you that shows up every day. The one they rely on to do the right things. That is so powerful for you and your business or organization.
Today I didn’t bill a client for time that I could have. The circumstances were such that it was the right thing to do. In other situations the circumstances may be different and a client may set in motion events that result in my billing them for time reserved and not used. That may be the right thing to do too. No doubt there will be a current or future client that will bring this article to my attention when circumstances come about where “the right thing to do” about a particular cancellation is in dispute—it is one of the joys of writing, having your own words to contend with. And if you chose to do so, keep this in mind: I like to do the right thing. And chances are I’ve already taken the circumstances into consideration, but you’re right; it doesn’t hurt to ask, and you can ask. But the question is: “Should you?”
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