Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Not To Treat a Client

Dwayne (not his real name) runs a DJ company, with several trucks and operators doing multiple jobs each weekend, and many week nights as well throughout the year. His company had been retained by a local high school to DJ two dances a year, at a cool $2,200 each. Over the past 4 years, Dwayne billed the school for over $17,000.

The school authorities loved him, not least because he respected their wishes to keep the maximum sound pressure level in the room below 95 dBA (monitored by a teacher-chaperon with an SPL meter, in an effort to protect the students' hearing in their capacity in loco parentis), and he was lined up to do the prom again this year—until he made a really idiotic and short-sighted mistake.

Dwayne claimed that at a school dance earlier this month, a student (the president of the student council) making an announcement to the crowd through Dwayne's sound system blew out a loudspeaker in one of his cabinets, and that the school now owed him $1,000.

Now before we go any further, let me state the obvious:

1. The operator, not the client, is responsible for the care, maintenance and proper operation of a sound system;
2. All professional sound systems are configured with adequate protection (i.e., limiting or fuses), so no loudspeaker without a pre-existing fault would have been damaged operating at such a low sound pressure level;
3. Surely Dwayne carries business insurance to cover such situations.

Dwayne threatened the principal with a small claims action if she didn't pay him $600 to cover the repair, plus close to another $400 to cover his cost of renting a replacement cabinet for a gig the following evening.

The principal acceded to his request and paid him off, simply because she didn't have the time or energy to investigate whether the equipment was already faulty, or even to counter with objections such as those outlined above. Since most clients don't request DJs to respect a reasonably low sound level, it's my guess that the loudspeaker in question was already well on the way to failure.

Needless to say, Dwayne won't ever work for that client again, and the story of his hissy fit will no doubt get around.

From a business perspective, Dwayne's action was just plain dumb. To throw away a client with guaranteed future business, along with all the goodwill built up over four years is incomprehensible to me, regardless of the amount of money involved.

And he knew it, too. His parting words to the principal were, "I guess you won't be hiring me again." A sad and classic case of how not to treat a client.

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