We all have those clients that are That Guy. And you know who That Guy is. They’re the ones that think that they are the ONLY clients that you have. That your entire company is teetering on the brink of extinction save for their singular largess of keeping you in business.
These are the people that expect you to just be sitting by the phone waiting for them to call when any need or whim arises. In fact, since you have a smart phone – you do have a smart phone don’t you? – they expect you to essentially be near 24-hour standby ready-alert status, like an old SAC Bomber, just turning big lazy circles right outside Russian airspace.
Meet Mr. Money
So, I have a client like this that I’ll call Mr. Money. Our relationship has been going on for over a year now, and it is fairly typical of any relationship with That Guy type customers. Essentially everything is rainbows and unicorns until something isn’t. (Mind you, this is a GIANT reason why I left the golf business. Working six days-a-week at a mega-private club where EVERYBODY is in fact That Guy is a particular level of hell that I hope you’ll never have to visit.)
Mr. Money’s e-mails are peppered with phrases like “overwhelmingly impressed” and “love your professionalism” after I tracked down a doctorate-thesis amount of information on something that he said he absolutely had to have – “money is not an object here.” (Of course, when I told him that, yes, we could do it but that it is going to cost X to the power of 2. Then money became an object and “let’s just back-burner that for now.” Actually, back-burnering things is a special skill of Mr. Money now that I think about it.)
Our First Bump in the Road
I remember at one point I had to leave town for a few days for a family medical emergency. When I had to e-mail back that I would be unable to meet him, I got this terse message that maybe he needs to meet with another company that is better able to suit his schedule. (Yes, I realize how unprofessional it was to be out of town for an emergency angioplasty that got in the way of your totally unplanned spur-of-the-moment weekend trip to visit your project.)
Then once we finally nailed down all the particulars, I asked Mr. Money for a deposit. On large jobs, our company requests a fair percentage of the project to ensure that if something happens – client dies, goes bankrupt, decides to go on a year-long sailing trip around the world, whatever – that the amount of our butts left out in the breeze will be small enough to ensure that we can continue dealing with our other That Guys. But Mr. Money responds that he pays no one that kind of deposit. Then he hits me with the modern-day version of “Mine is bigger than yours!” He says, “I pay my bills. You can Google me.” Now because Mr. Money’s job did not in fact make our company – and because I am particularly sensitive and respond in an ass-like manner when confronted with such puffery – I responded that I have already Googled him. And that he is also welcome to Google me. (My name actually comes up WAY more often – how you like me now, Money?! Sadly, my Google entries don’t say that I sold my company for $200+ million…)
“You want to CHARGE me that service call?”
This back story is all just an amusing set-up to the premise of this blog. (ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?!) So, over the course of the past year, Mr. Money routinely calls with questions – how does this work? – for advice – which phone system should I buy? – for tech help – how does a new 3D TV work? – etc. I always promptly respond to his e-mails, dolling out all manner of free advice. Basically, kind of like a Centurion Card concierge. So, as is typical after he breezes into town for a week, Mr. Money sends me a laundry list of items that he would like us to come and check. So, as is also typical after getting such an e-mail, I dispatch a tech up there take care of the items. My tech spends close to two hours checking over everything, ticking off all the requests and ensuring that all is ready for Mr. Money’s next royal visit.
Following I send a cheery little e-mail to Mr. Money detailing when we came and all that we did, and tell him that I want to run his credit card through for the $90 service call. Except you’d think that I told him that I decided to just arbitrarily rip out all of his gear and replace it with a Krell Evo system. He responded that he doesn’t want to be petty over the charge (though by saying that you don’t want to be petty, you are already in mid-air, leaping over that line of actually being petty), but that he is surprised that I am even proposing charging him for the call. (I know; I am a precocious bastard, wanting to get paid for my work and all.) Then he mentions that he is a “BIG fan of” me and our company and asks that I reconsider the proposed charge.
I type my answer, then hit reply
So, I decided to put it to him. I reply with this message:
Mr. Money, as I'm sure you can appreciate, it is a real cost for us to drive – nearly 45 minutes – from our store to your home. When you say COME, we have ALWAYS come. Not to mention the phone support that I offer at absolutely no charge.
I appreciate that you value our company. I guess that I'll let you tell me what you think this service call was worth. My installer spent 1.5 hours at your house. If you feel that we should absorb this, just let me know.
Within minutes, Mr. Money was on the phone. Giving me his credit card number and apologizing. Agreeing that, of course, this is something he should pay for…and thanking me for the service. And thus, a new billing strategy is born!