Don’t fudge your way through things

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by Suzanna Watson on February 26, 2011

If a customer asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, what do you do?

Do you tell the them the truth, or do you try to fudge your way through it and hope they don’t notice?

Of course the best answer is always the honest answer. That’s no secret. So this leads to two possible responses when faced with this situation. The first is, “I can’t answer that but I can look into it and get back to you”. The second answer is simply, “I honesty don’t know”.

To illustrate why honesty is always the best policy we recently had an inquiry about cleaning terracotta flooring. The call was a desperate plea from a current customer of ours who is a high-end interior designer.

The designer was in the middle of a renovation project when one of the contractors went on the lamb. To be specific, one part of the project included the repair and cleaning of an expensive terracotta floor.

This customer of ours knew our abilities with cleaning carpet, tile and grout and VCT, and was hoping we could save her restoration job from going up in smoke concerning the terracotta floors.

The customer was so desperate they called on a Sunday hoping for some assistance. It would have been easy for me to see “dollar bills” and attempt to jump in and save the day. The only problem is I have no experience with that flooring surface.

This lead to us passing on the job because we would not feel comfortable “fudging our way through it”. In this case, had we said “yes we can do that”, we would be have been telling the customer a half truth.

We probably would have left the customers no better off than they were already. The point here is to remember your role as “advisor”. Advise the customer on what you know, and be smart enough to admit your knowledge has boundaries.

In this case we didn’t leave the customer empty handed. We went out of our way to make calls to our vendors asking them for advice on the situation. This lead to making a contact with a company that is very experienced in terracotta repair and maintenance.

We then put the vendor with the right skills for the job in touch with of our customer. This lead to a very happy customer, one that went out of their way to thank us for going through all this trouble.

This type situation leads to a stronger bond between the contractor and the client. The reason is it builds “trust”. This trust is more important than making a few dollars and fudging our way through a situation we knew very little about.

Trust is important because it leads to even more business with the existing client not to mention referrals down the road. So the moral of this story is rather simple.

If you honestly can’t take on a job and do it the right way, just say no. Then do your best to find them the right person. Your customers will appreciate this much more and it will solidify your role as “advisor’.

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