Home > Business > Don’t Say This to Your Clients

The other day I had a weird experience at Jiffy Lube.

As I was paying for the oil change, the attendant handed me my car keys and casually said:

“We weren’t able to vacuum out your car today and clean your windows. We’re down to just one attendant at work on this shift. So sorry.”

I’m sure this clerk just thought she was being honest and somehow helpful by apologizing to me. But there were a couple problems.

First, I didn’t even remember that they usually vacuum out my car and clean my windows at Jiffy Lube! (I keep my car tidy, and take it in to be washed and vacuumed every couple of weeks at a different establishment anyway. So it wasn’t on my radar that they performed this additional courtesy service with every oil change at Jiffy Lube.

Secondly, she made me feel I’d somehow gotten ripped off, deprived of a service—when I hadn’t complained, and probably wouldn’t have noticed had she not told me. (I almost wanted to ask her for a rain check on the vacuum and window job! She did not offer one!)

Bottom line: What she said undermined rather than boosted the feeling of satisfaction I had in paying $129 for my oil change.

Are you inadvertently undermining your clients’ satisfaction in your service?

Consider the following statements:

  • “I was on vacation and wasn’t able to review your account but I will get to it next week.”
  • “We are really short-staffed because our top client associate is out on maternity leave. “
  • “My junior planner just left the firm with hardly any notice and we’re scrambling to do everything he did, including scheduling the client reviews.”

Each of these statements may be true. But they’re not appropriate to tell your clients—even your best clients! They weaken your professionalism. They make clients doubt whether they’re getting the full service they’re paying for. (Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of doing this at one time or another!)

But each of these statements is an excuse of some form. Excuses undermine your credibility every time you use them. It’s the equivalent of athletes blaming faulty equipment or the officials for a loss. Everyone knows it’s just an excuse. It’s the equivalent of “The dog ate my homework,” when you were back in school.

Additionally, each of those statements entails extraneous details about your personal or work life the client does not give a darn about—and shouldn’t give a darn about. The client really (in my opinion) does not want to hear about a) your vacation; b) your staffing problems. And they shouldn’t have to!

Clients care about their money, and want to know you’re on top of it! That’s what they’re paying you for. Yes, it’s nice to break the ice and tell the client a few personal items about yourself, where you’re from, where you went to school, and briefly talk about your family or vacations. But you should spend most of your time finding out more about the client, their family, their work situation, or their vacations, not telling them all about you.

Finally, you should never be alerting the client to things you’re not doing for them, or weren’t able to do for them, as my friendly clerk at Jiffy Lube mistakenly did to me. Your clients are just as busy as you and they’re likely not hyperventilating over every little service courtesy you couldn’t provide this time. (If you run out of cookies at the front desk, for instance, put away the plate and don’t tell them … “We just ran out of cookies.”)

Instead of telling them what you didn’t do, or couldn’t do, or are just about to do, always, remind them what you do that adds value to their life:

  • “I rebalanced your portfolio. “
  • “I reviewed your account.
  • “I noticed you need to take a distribution next month.”

Don’t make excuses. Demonstrate value. And clients will be satisfied with the price they’re paying.

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