Preventing Crisis When Family Becomes Customer
If you are starting out in business, chances are high that your family and friends would be among the first to patronize you with because they believe in your or it’s their way of supporting your hustle. Unfortunately, many of them end up with bitter experiences as we fail to satisfy them. In the post, When Family Become Customer, I explained how to ensure that your family get satisfied when they become a customer. However, on Brojid Money this week, I want to share with how to avoid trouble when family and friends become a customer.
I’d like to start by letting you know that one of the roots of wahala when family becomes a customer is unclear expectations. That is, at the point of initiating a transaction, family wants something and you expect something in return but when you communicate the specifics of your expectations, the ground has just been prepared for trouble.
The reason is that as at the point of exchange of value or closing transaction, it becomes clear that one person didn’t get what one wanted and so starts making trouble or if he chooses to stomach the disappointment, it may live in his mind as a seed of discord that may eventually lead to the crumbling of the relationship.
Often, the circumstance surrounding a family becoming a customer is informal. As an example, your cousin who knows that you bake cake could call you to order cake on phone and only tell you that she wants cake and based on the assumption that “money no go be problem for us’, you don’t clarify the size, and recipe for the cake she wants, the cost implication and payment plan.
Therefore, the first step to ensuring that you prevent wahala when family becomes a customer is by clarifying your expectations from each other from day one. Don’t live anything in the realm of assumption; especially money matter. The stress of clarifying your expectation is nothing compared to the possible trouble that could result from unclear expectations.
There are times when the cause of unclear expectation is not hearing what was said clearly or mistakes in typing chats. You see, when people talk on the phone, it’s easy to forget or deny what they said. In fact, it’s possible that they made their spec clear but your network was too poor that you couldn’t hear clearly. So, after your phone conversation, clarify your expectation by simply restating it in writing.
Even if you can get your company letterhead of contract template, you can just restate the facts of your what they want and its cost implication in text or WhatsApp message and send to them. Some family and friends will misread this and accuse you of not trusting them; don’t worry. Let them know that the clarification is a practical measure to ensure that the trust you have with each other doesn’t get lost.
Tale of My Customer
At Fratee Media, aside from my primary job description of crafting media solutions, designing websites and graphics for our client, I equally interface with our customers. Our workflow is this: you tell us the service you need and what you want to achieve with it, we suggest any other possible thing like features you should have on your website, we reach an agreement and we develop our design blueprint based on the hybrid of what you want and our professional input.
We always send this blueprint with the cost implication to clients for their approval before we get started with the job. My experience is that when the customer is family or friend, they complain of my being too formal as they try to skip acknowledging recipient of the mail and approving our blueprint. The explanation that has always worked for me most times is, “We do this with our client so that we don’t cheat our customers and so that our customers are not confused about our expectations from them.”
In fact, some weeks ago, we were contracted to print 500 copies of 50 leaves jotter for wedding anniversary by a client referred to us by another one we had printed wedding jotter for. When we agreed to work based on our WhatsApp chat, I detailed our agreement and sent to her email from my official email address for her review and approval.
She was uncomfortable with it because of the inherited trust of her referrer. I apologized and simply got started with the job. When it was time for delivery, there is some extra money she had to pay for the packing material she requested aside the printing cost we had negotiated. That’s the main thing I wanted her to see in that mail, which she didn’t read.
So when she raised an eyebrow about the extra money, I simply copied the email and sent to her on WhatsApp. As a result, we didn’t have to start any long story. The deal went well and it was indeed nice doing business with her. She is a big madam in a bank and she took 15 minutes to teach me on Customer Profiling which I am very grateful for.
Abuse of Familiarity
Another thing that breeds trouble when family becomes a customer is an abuse of familiarity. Your family and friends are usually people that know you very well, especially when you are nobody. The implication is that they often find it hard to separate you they know and your business.
So when you tell them, for instance, to send you a mail stating the service they want from you, they feel you are stressing them or like one lady told me, “Brojid, you too dey like protocol.” If you allow them to have their way, they will waste your time, won’t follow the system you have developed for ensuring customer satisfaction and the result could be a poorly satisfied customer. You may not be able to change them to act exactly the way you want’ but you can adjust how you relate with them to ensure their satisfaction without sabotaging your business process or tarnishing your brand name.
For instance, the lady I that said, that I like protocol, she is supposed to request that I make changes on her websites from her email; not just call me on phone. When she started dragging her feet, I just copied our WhatsApp chat, arranged it and sent to her to send to Fratee Media email so that I will fix her issues. She did and we worked fine. I needed to be sure that changes made on her websites were insisted by her and one proof is that email.
Some family that become customer think they can make you drop your payment policy just because they know you. Your payment policy is supposed to protect you from money wahala with your clients, so when family becomes friend, that policy should be upheld so that you don’t lose your friendship. I understand that there are some concessions you will, once in a while, make for your family and friends, but be sure it’s not the type that will adversely affect your business. In fact, to be on a safe side, be sure that they cover the cost of production when you want to give the credit so that in the event that they default, you will not lose your capital.
Your family and friends are good for starting a business transaction, but don’t allow it breed acrimony between you. Make them follow due process, sign what should be signed, send the email that should be sent. If you have to give them credit, be sure that they are credit worthy, unless you just want to dash them the money. In fact, if these people are your church people, it’s more reason to tighten those policies. Some church people get themselves into financial trouble because of foolishness which they mistake to be faith. I am sure you don’t want to get into trouble with your brethren in the Lord, so don’t give them credit unless you have good reason to expect they will be able to pay back.
Under Pricing Your Product/Service
One more reason why conflict ensure when family become a customer is that they are undercharged. You see, family and friends can haggle for Africa. In fact, sometimes they come to you not because they think you are very good at your work; but because they don’t have money and so they are looking for anybody that can do it for them for just chikele money.
Even when they are told that the price they are asking for is not enough, they persist in their begging and their begging sometimes push you to accept what they offering to “see what I can do about it.” The result is some cases is that what you end up ‘seeing to do’ is poorly delivered service or product which result in crisis between you.
It’s better not to do work for them than to deliver a product or service that is bad for your brand, relationship with your friend and your God. When you choose to work for freinds that pays poorly, take it a sacrifice for your business and put in all the money they paid to deliver quality. You can make what far more than you could get from delivering poor job when your good work starts announcing you. Again, don’t forget that every bad product you put out there affect your brand adversely.
When a family becomes friends, it’s a good thing; however, if they are not well managed, the goodness of having them as customers can degenerate into crisis. Therefore, when family becomes customers, prevent crisis by clarifying your expectations from each other, avoid abuse of your familiarity, charging them properly for the service or product they want.
PS: You can learn more ion this from our 10-minutes podcast on this same subject Avoiding Wahala When Family Becomes Customer.