One question I’ve been asked is, “How can I protect myself against difficult customers?”
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Boilerplate Contracts Are Almost Worthless
A client contacted me about a couple difficult clients they were having trouble with, she wanted to know if she handled the situation properly. We talked about the clients at length but what it eventually came down to was that she did not have a proper contract. She had paid for a contract that was on a website. The problem was the contract only had boilerplate language. It did not fully protect her interests (or the client’s interests for that matter). It was worthless, well almost worthless. Having a written contract is better than not having a contract at all but for a contract to be effective, it needs to protect both parties interests.
Vague Contracts Are Construed Against the Drafter
The contract only provided for the basic remedies in case of a breach. It did not provide any remedies in case the customer became difficult or uncooperative. It did not spell them out explicitly. Unfortunately, in a vaguely written contract, the language is viewed in a light most favorable to the non-drafting party. The theory is that if it was important enough that a provision was in the contract that the drafting party would have put it in. A boilerplate contract does not know what is important to the drafting party and what is not.
A Good Contract is Made for Difficult Customers
My client was stuck performing the services that she had agreed to perform because there was no remedy. She was miserable trying to fulfill her contractual obligations because these difficult customers were being unreasonable. They had gone behind my client’s back and broke something that my client had worked on. They blamed her for the lack of performance. It was her word against theirs. Because she could not prove it and did not want to lose out on the money from the customer, she held her tongue and fixed it.
Final Thoughts on Contracts and Difficult Customers
It is impossible to anticipate every scenario when drafting a contract, however, a good contract should anticipate the most common scenarios in that area business. It will provide provisions and clauses that will protect you. A well-written contract will help you avoid a scenario such as the one that my client went through. You can always download a boilerplate contract and hope for the best, or you can hire an attorney to draft one for you. A contract that will actually protect your interests. In the long run, a custom contract that is drafted exclusively for your business will save you time, money, and heartache.
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