A communication that starts with “I want a refund” will always get someone’s attention. Sure, there is no worse request than one that includes a request for a refund – especially for a solopreneur. But it is an absolute gift if you’re willing to see it.

A request for a refund will usually show you have a breakdown in process, training and/or follow-up communication.

Anytime I get on a call with a client and they show up fired up because client X is a P.I.T.A and wants a refund, their first reaction is to give the refund without a meeting about what wasn’t working and chalk the client up to being a royal pain in the arse. But that approach robs them of an enormous opportunity to grow their business. We always counsel to pause and conduct a full analysis.

If you ever get a request for a refund, give yourself a moment to take stock.

  1. Call a meeting with your entire team to do a full analysis of the client’s contract and line it up with your process to see where you dropped the ball.
  2. Review all communication and see when and where you provided the client with an update.
  3. Pick up the phone and call, ideally with all parties involved in the file, to see “what’s not working” from the client’s perspective.
  4. Sincerely take ownership and responsibility for the failure to communicate – this piece is CRUCIAL, as most people will never take responsibility and own their part of the foul, and at the root of it, the acknowledgement is really what the client wants most.
  5. Offer to meet weekly/daily (whatever is necessary) to fully meet their expectations on getting the work complete while also offering a 20% discount on any remaining unpaid balance for the work (a discount is far greater than a refund, as you want them fully satisfied and referring after this amazing recovery. “It was rocky in the beginning but they cared, took responsibility, made it right AND gave me a discount.”
  6. For EVERYONE who is involved, schedule time for the agreed-upon follow-up communication in addition to the time to get the work done. Have an internal accountability person follow up with your team to make sure the work gets done ahead of schedule. Under promise and over deliver.
  7. Schedule a two-week appointment to send a plant delivery gift to the client, including a note like: “Thank you for sharing with us your concerns and trusting us enough to complete your work. We hope your X was what you envisioned when you hired us.”
  8. Schedule four-week and six-week follow-up emails and calls to the client to make sure they are satisfied, and “if there is anything further we can do to enhance your client experience, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.”

Many times when a client requests a refund, what they really want to communicate is that they feel forgotten about, unimportant and disrespected. Many times it is a last-ditch cry for a response, any kind of response. I personally was forced to use this last-chance approach when I felt I had tried everything else to get an update on work I hired someone for.

Just last month I sent an email to the marketing agency I hired for a copywriting project. Hired them, paid a 50% retainer up-front, had a strategy call and then crickets. After numerous unanswered emails, texts and phone calls, I finally sent a Hail Mary email titled “I want a refund.” Within 20 minutes, no joke, I received a response: “What are you talking about. We have fulfilled on all work, and here it all is.” Yes, it was all there. All but one piece. The challenge was, I didn’t know about it. I had received no communication or follow up, so the only place I was left to resort to was to end this now. I immediately felt relief when I knew it was done, but in hindsight, their response sucked. It was loaded with justification and defense, with zero responsibility for their lack of communication, gratitude and respect for me being a client of theirs.

Don’t miss the invaluable opportunity to pause and analyze should you ever get a client complaint or a request for a refund. These are solid gold opportunities to up-level your internal communication, processes and follow up.

If you want the resources for your team to make certain that they have your back, and you have theirs to get the business to the next level, join our Team Empowerment Academy today!  

Molly Hall