Doing customized work, whether it be graphic design, websites or
jewelry, can be tricky when you get a fussy customer. However, there
are some ways to successfully balance customer satisfaction with
business profitability. My mother started her own graphic design
company 20 years ago and I’ve been able to benefit from her
First of all, it’s not uncommon or unreasonable to ask for a partial
non-refundable deposit (30-50%) up front or once the particulars of
the design are down on paper. If you have a detailed sketch of the
design, you can also get the customer to sign off on it. The more
detail you can put into the sketch (like sizes, etc.) the less chance
there is for dispute later.
If you finish the piece and the customer is unsatisfied, ask if the
customer’s dissatisfaction is with the craftsmanship (“it doesn’t
look like the sketch” or “the ring shank is uneven”, etc.) or if the
customer’s expectations were different than the original sketch (“it
looks a lot bigger/smaller/flashier than I thought it would”). If the
customer is dissatisfied with the craftsmanship, and the complaints
are legitimate (be honest), then fix them free of charge.
If the you and the customer had two different interpretations of the
original sketch (if you’ve seen “This is Spinal Tap”, remember the 10
inch tall Stonehenge), find out what it would take to match the
customer’s expectations. If necessary you may be able to re-negotiate
the final price. If you can’t come to an agreement about a corrected
design or if you’ve redesigned more than once on a particular project,
ask if the customer is having second thoughts about spending the
money. If the customer admits that it is a money issue, I suggest
acknowledging the customer’s feelings AND refunding the non-refundable
deposit. Yes, you may have put a lot of time and effort into the
piece, but when the customer does have the finances, you can bet
he/she will be back because of your integrity and goodwill.
Additionally, you may be able to sell the piece to someone else.
We’ve done that on occasion.
Sometimes, you will get a customer that just likes to complain.
Nothing is good enough no matter how carefully you sketch things out
ahead of time and no matter how much expert craftsmanship you put into
it. Sometimes you just have to say, "Mr. Jones, I understand that
you’re not happy with how the piece has turned out. I want you to get
your money’s worth and I certainly want you to be happy with your
purchase. Unfortunately, I’m not really sure I can meet your needs.
You might want to try a different jeweler who could better serve you."
The customer may protest (strange, but true), but if you don’t think
you can satisfy him/her, you are better off to fire yourself from the
job. Your piece of mind is worth it.
I would also suggest reading some books on negotiating. Also check
out www.inc.com for articles on this subject.
JoAnna Kelleher, owner
Pearl Exotics Trading Company, LLC