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Ask SCORE: How Do Business Owners Navigate Quotation Errors?
June 14, 2024
Yenting Liu

Sometimes even the most detailed plans wind up costing business owners more than they had anticipated. Particularly for service providers contemplating a new client or expanded project, it can be challenging to account for every nuance when finalizing a cost proposal.

In those instances, a project quote may mean an entrepreneur earns less than he or she had forecasted. These mistakes can unsettle even the most seasoned small business owners. However, with the right approach, these errors can be transformed into opportunities for building stronger client relationships and enhancing your brand's reputation.

Assess the Situation Beyond Profit

First, evaluate the error's impact not just on your immediate revenue but on the long-term client relationship. Consider the broader implications, such as the potential for repeat business or referrals. An error might initially seem costly, but the goodwill gained by handling it gracefully can outweigh the immediate financial loss. This approach helps in building a foundation for a sustainable business model that values customer satisfaction and loyalty as key drivers of success.

Quantify the Outcome

Assign a tangible value to different outcomes. This involves more than crunching numbers; it's about understanding the value of trust, loyalty, and client satisfaction. Sometimes, the decision to honor an erroneous quote, despite a financial hit, can lead to greater profitability in the long run. When doing this, it's crucial to consider both direct and indirect benefits, including the enhancement of your company's reputation and the potential for positive word-of-mouth marketing.

Embrace an Investment Perspective

View the mistake as an investment in your client relationship. This shift in perspective encourages you to think about the long-term returns of maintaining high ethical standards and customer satisfaction. This investment is often more valuable than a single transaction's profit margin and allows for a broader strategic vision that sees beyond immediate losses to the potential gains in credibility and market position.

Prioritize Transparency and Integrity

Openly communicating with your client about the mistake demonstrates your integrity. This step is crucial; honesty in business fosters trust and respect. Offer solutions if feasible, but more importantly, use this as an opportunity to illustrate your commitment to quality and accountability. Such transparency mitigates the potential negative impact of the error and strengthens the client's perception of your business as trustworthy and reliable.

Make an Informed Decision

With all the information and potential outcomes considered, make a decision that aligns with your business values and long-term goals. If the error is too significant to honor without jeopardizing your business, explain the situation to your client. A respectful and honest conversation can preserve the relationship even if you cannot honor the quote. It's essential to balance the interests of your business with the expectations and needs of your clients, striving for solutions that uphold your business’s values while addressing the issue at hand.

Learn and Improve

Finally, use the error as a springboard for improvement. Analyze how the mistake occurred and implement processes to prevent similar issues. Continuous improvement in your operations and client communication can turn a one-time error into a catalyst for growth and development. Implementing a system for price quote accuracy can help minimize errors, streamline the process, and enhance overall operational efficiency.

Yenting Liu is a subject matter expert with SCORE Bucks County with a rich background in fostering growth and innovation within the business community. As the founder of LiACE, Liu specializes in representing B2B companies, facilitating crucial liaisons with external stakeholders to enhance business operations and outreach.

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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