In a perfect world, clients would read the terms of a contract and sign it only after they completely understood and agreed with them. Unfortunately, due to a lack of time or simple neglect, a client will sometimes sign a contract and read the terms more carefully later, only to find that they have an issue with one or more of them.
Technically, once a contract has been signed, you’re under no obligation to change its terms. There may be cases where you are willing to work with clients who come across discrepancies after signing. But what happens if a client takes advantage of your accommodating nature and requests more amendments?
Here, eight experts from Forbes Coaches Council explain how they would handle a client who requests an unreasonable number of changes to a signed contract.
1. Charge A Premium For Changes
Any and all customer changes to a contract should come with a premium cost. Your contract is binding once signed. If a customer desires a change, then that requires an unplanned shift in your priorities for your company. Charge a premium price for the time you spend making adjustments, or charge a change fee every time you process a change to a signed document. – John Knotts, Crosscutter Enterprises
2. Meet To Discuss The Issue
When your client requests unreasonable changes after the contract has been signed, it’s important to discuss the issue as soon as possible. Set up a meeting to share your concerns and learn more to fully understand their request. This isn’t a time to email. Be honest. Assume positive intent. Seek to understand where the misalignment comes from so you can reestablish what works for both sides. – Cheryl Breukelman, Epiphany Coaches Inc.
3. Cut Unreasonable Clients Loose
There’s something else going on there. Take the opportunity to reassess fit and have a conversation with them about what’s really going on. What’s driving their desire to keep requesting changes to the contract? If there isn’t a viable reason or a coachable situation going on, then this is not the client for you, and it’s best to cut this one loose. At the end of the day, they did you a favor. – Dhru Beeharilal, Nayan Leadership, LLC
4. Reconnect And Reset Expectations
If my clients are making changes with back-and-forth requests, this is a sign to pause, reconnect personally with the client and reset expectations. Stepping into the conversation with curiosity can help you and your client refocus on what’s needed to move forward more productively. This is an opportunity for you to discover how to best align and gain insights into your process and system. – Sheila Carmichael, Transitions D2D, LLC
5. Determine The Underlying Problem
A pattern of multiple requests from a client to change the terms of their contract offers an opportunity to use free coaching to determine the underlying problem. The outcome could point to a problem with boundaries, for example, or something else, which could reveal an underlying need to explore a coaching topic around decisiveness and uncertainty to save the client and retain business integrity. – Ruth Simone, Luminare Coaching & Consulting
6. Talk To An Attorney To Sort It Out
Engage with an attorney to sort out the details. If the contract was already signed, why are there numerous change requests? The question is, what is “unreasonable?” Just because it’s unreasonable to you does not mean it’s unreasonable to the client—otherwise, they would not be requesting the changes. Find out how you can best serve them in a way that serves both them and you for a successful outcome. – Denise Russo, School of Thoughts
7. Set Clear Boundaries Early And Often
When necessary, reassert and maintain mutual accountability based on your established agreement. You should try to be flexible only for minor adjustments. Otherwise, don’t let your client take advantage of you. You may need to terminate the relationship and go your separate ways. – Jonathan H. Westover, Utah Valley University & Human Capital Innovations, LLC
8. Review The Original Deliverable
Revert to the original quotation and offering on which the contract was based and identify what has been altered in the deliverable that warrants the contract changes. Seek qualifiers from the client about the changes and validate these against what is meant to be delivered. Contractual changes come with cost and resource implications, so highlight those for the client as well. – Arthi Rabikrisson, Prerna Advisory