The Matrix Group running team wanted t-shirts for a couple of races this Spring and Summer. We ordered black running shirt with our logo printed using a sublimation process, meaning that instead of being an applique, the ink is fused into the shirt fibers. This ensures the shirt remains breathable and the logo will be long lasting. We ordered the shirts from a company Boombah. Unfortunately, the shirts were got had the logos applied with a Fusion process, which is essentially a high-end iron on transfer. The shirts look and feel like plastic.
We called Boombah to complain that we ordered shirts with a sublimation process, which, incidentally, is what our e-mail receipt says. The Boombah sales rep said something to the effect of “the sublimation process is only available for the white and gray shirts. Our receipts say sublimation as part of the template, but it’s wrong. Our website is very clear that you can’t get sublimation with the black shirts.” (Don’t get me started on what happened when I asked to speak with a manager or the owner. It was not good.)
Okay, forget that the invoice says sublimation. Boombah violated what I affectionately refer to as JP Rule #3: Never let your client make a mistake. In my mind, if we had called asking for black shirts with logos, the rep should have made sure we were crystal clear on the concept that sublimation, which is the nicer printing method, is NOT available for black shirts. Knowing that fusion on black makes for a crappy shirt, the rep should have at least tried to prevent us from making that mistake. Yes, we ultimately placed the order and we take responsibility. We paid for the shirts and promptly ordered a batch from another company.
Whether it’s shirts or websites, clients rely on their service providers for expertise and recommendations. It’s up to us to educate our clients, make sure they understand the options, make recommendations, and warn them if we think they’re about to make a mistake. Yes, clients ultimately need to make their own decisions and they are big boys and girls, but if we hold technical knowledge they don’t, shouldn’t we at least make sure they are aware of the impact of their choices?
Case in point. A new client was implementing MatrixMaxx, our association management software. Our main contact told us that the association didn’t need any company demographics as part of the setup. We questioned this decision several times and he maintained that no, the organization did not need to collect company data outside of contact information. Knowing this is wrong and a waste of an opportunity to gather member data, we took the issue to the VP. Without making it seem like we were going over the manager’s head, we let the VP know that we thought the organization could benefit from collecting additional data as part of the member profile and membership application. We even suggested a package of fields. Sure enough, the VP, who has a bigger picture view, agreed on the demographics. We *could* have dropped the issue after confirming with the manager. We would have had tons of documentation showing that the client rejected the additional fields so that if the client came back to us a year later, we’d be perfectly justified in charging extra money for a change order. But that behavior would have violated Rule #3.
We try to live Rule #3 and we don’t always succeed. There isn’t always clarity about what’s absolutely right and what’s absolutely wrong. We don’t always realize a decision will be the wrong one in the long run. And clients don’t always agree with us. BUT, I believe that we have an obligation to our clients to at least give it the old college try and help them not make mistakes.
How about you? Got any stories of a vendor who let you make a mistake or saved you from making a bad decision?
P.S. I have a total of 23 rules. I’ll try to blog about them all in the future. If you’d like a copy of the list, let me know.