SUMMARY: A customer is satisfied with the quality of services she received but realizes, after the fact, that other service providers charge less. Although there is a difference in the quality of services between the providers, the customer has a hard time seeing it and is now mad at the service provider and wants a fee reduction. Should the provider give her a reduction? Would it really change her mind that the provider tried to take advantage of her? Are there other ways to salvage the customer relationship? If so what?
CONTEXT: I own and operate a very small business (250k/year sales). We sell professional services to individuals, not businesses. The average customer will purchase our services 2 to 3 times in their entire lifetime, and our average invoice is around $6,000. We're in a highly competitive industry with a great many competitors and, as is often the case with services, customers tend to see all competitors as the same. Although our services are not a commodity and I certainly don't see them as such, many people have a hard time differentiating the services of one competitor from another.
It is my strong belief, and I do have some concrete data to back it up, that we offer a better quality of service and achieve better results for our customers than even some of our best competitors and definitely much, much better than our average competitor - the barrier to entry in our industry is relatively low and there is a considerable amount of low quality low-cost players. Accordingly, our fees tend to be higher than those charged by the competition - sometimes 25% to 50% higher than the average competitor, and 5% to 15% higher than some of the best alternatives. Unfortunately, the nature of our business and our services are such that sometimes, the better we are at our job, the harder it is for the customer to see the value in our services (holy %$?! that seemed easy, quick and effortless, why the hell am I giving you so much money?)
PROBLEM: We just finished doing some work for a client that was referred to us. She was referred to us because we have a good reputation in our area and do great work. We talked with this person on the phone, asked her some questions to better understand her needs, sent her a very thorough information package containing our entire service offer, fees, contract and information about our business. We then met with her and signed the contract. Everything went well, we provided her with great service and obtain some great results for that customer. At the end of our mandate, she filled out our online customer survey and gave us a 9 out of 10 in every category.
A few weeks after we were done with the work, but before we are scheduled to receive payment, she gets in touch with us to say that she is mad and feels like we took advantage of her and that we charged her way too much. See, a few people told her that she could have hired some of our competitors for less and she now feels stupid that she didn't shop around and trusted the person that referred her to us. Though she has not directly asked for it, she is hinting that we should substantially lower the amount of our invoice and basically admit that we took advantage of her.
MY TAKE: I feel bad that the customer feels the way she feels and I am sad that what was a pleasant customer relationship turned sour after the fact. It's as if she purchased a BMW or Mercedes, thinking that those were the only cars available, not realizing that there are Toyotas and Hyundais in the world. Now that she realizes that there are Hyundais and Toyotas, she feels like she overpaid for her Mercedes. (They all have 4 wheels, seats and take you from point A to point B, don't they? I got screwed!)
I can't help to think that offering a discount would be an admission that we tried to screw her over (which is absolutely not the case, we offer premium quality services and results, at a premium price) and really, would not be enough to change her opinion of us. A full refund, in this particular case, would represent about 8% of our total forecasted 2017 revenue. I don't want her to start giving us bad word of mouth but at the same time, I'm not sure that the cost to prevent that is equal to what we may or may not lose in potential sales if she ever starts to badmouth us.
QUESTION: Is there anything we can do, that would stand the test of a cost/benefit analysis, to save the relationship? If so, what?