What Does a Good Client Really Cost?

Last week I had an interesting experience with a new-to-me business. There’s a local tennis company that provides lessons in the town where I live, and both my daughter and I wanted to sign up this summer and get some good practice in.

So we arrived for my daughter’s first lesson last Monday afternoon to find she was in a class of three – and the two other kids were little. She’s going into middle school and was near tears when she saw she was to play with a 7-year-old and an 8-year-old.

She put on a big smile and made the best of it, until I went up to the instructor and explained that my daughter would rather be in a class of kids her own age and that challenged her a bit more. This one was clearly too easy.

No problem, the instructor said. We packed up and left midway through the lesson. An hour later, I received an email from the company owner, offering a more challenging class – with kids around the same young ages. I picked up the phone to talk it out and explained that my daughter would like to be challenged, yes, but she also would like to be in a class with kids her own age.

No problem, the owner said, and referred me to a class not in our neighborhood but a 15-minute drive away. Sorry, I said, but we want to stay close to home.

After much talk, we realized it probably wasn’t going to happen for this summer, and I asked for a refund for the two classes I had signed her up for. I can give you a credit, the owner said.

Um, no, I replied, and repeated that since we were new to town, we’d prefer a refund since there wasn’t another class we could apply it to. Fine, she said.

That evening, I noticed on my credit card statement online that I’d been given a credit – for all but the one class my daughter attended. As a business owner, I understand she was being technical – she attended, so we should pay for it.

Fine enough.

Except I believe goodwill goes a long way in business.

I emailed the owner and shared my feedback that it was interesting that she charged us for a class when my daughter left halfway through in tears. Frankly, I don’t mind paying the $20. Really, it’s not about the money. It’s the principle of it.

The woman replied that my daughter was keeping another child from signing up by being there so that’s why we should pay. Ok, but the class max is 10 kids and there were only 3. So really, no.

The bottom line is not really the bottom line. It’s that when you build goodwill and show compassion for your customers, they are likely to remain your customers and that loyalty is worth far more than $20.

Which I told the company owner.

I don’t mind paying for something I purchase. Ever. I believe very strongly in the exchange of energy that happens when you pay for a service, an expertise, a product.

That said, when you have a child who’s new to the program and she’s in tears because it’s just not the right fit, do you fight for your $20?

Or do you fight for your reputation?

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