listening to clients in the wedding and event planning industry

(Image via ky_olsen)

Yesterday, I promised to explain how I handled those three difficult payment situations. So, here’s what I did:

In the first situation, everything came to a head the day before the event. My client was simply unable to come up with the money he owed me. I was angry. I was also disappointed in myself for ignoring quite a few warning signs. I wasn’t sure what to do, but eventually I decided to talk to my client; I knew I wouldn’t get paid until I opened up the lines of communication between us. At the time, my company was very much a small business. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to write paychecks for my employees if my client didn’t pay me first. When I explained this to my client, he felt terrible. I did do his event the next day, but we also set up a payment plan. Over the course of six months, I got every single dollar I was owed plus interest.

In the second case, I really believed I had done a great job. But, unfortunately, my client did not feel the same way and wanted some of her money back. This was a very difficult situation. I met my client at her home and let her vent for nearly an hour. Finally, she ran out of steam and couldn’t think of any more complaints. I told her that I was very sorry she wasn’t pleased with my work. I then went onto explain that while I couldn’t reimburse her, I did want to make it up to her. I told her that I wanted to send her flowers once a month for the next six months. Not only was she very happy with this solution, but she also continued to use my services for many years there after. Sometimes, clients just need to get their frustrations and disappointments off their chests, and it’s our job to let them do so without getting defensive. The best thing I did in this situation was to just listen.

In this last situation, a vendor I had hired did not meet my client’s expectations. My client wanted his money back, but my vendor refused to even listen to my client’s complaints. Unsurprisingly, client held me responsible and was even threatening to sue me. This situation cost me quite a bit of money. I had to reimburse my client, and, in the process, I learned how important it is to hire vendors I know well and trust implicitly. Also, I now make sure any vendor I hire for a client has his own contract with the client; that way, if something goes wrong, it’s between the two of them.

Questions for you: Have you experienced any similar situations? How have you handled them? Personally, I think that lawsuits are almost always a waste of time and money. If you’re a wedding and event planner, do you have clients pay vendors directly or through you?

After many years of trial and errors, I finally established a payment plan for all clients, and, most of the time, it works extremely well. Later this afternoon, I’ll post the details of my plan. Please check back!

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