When it comes to professional services, how you ask for payment can have a tremendous impact on the trust between the client and the provider. Three separate experiences in the past ten days have brought this to mind. Two weeks ago, I met with a colleague and asked her to conduct some keyword research for our social media efforts. After a couple of days, she sent me an e-mail that read, “I’ve completed the research and have attached an invoice for my services. As soon as you pay it, I’ll send the report.” My first thought was, “Don’t you trust me?” Sadly, that experience has turned me off from using her services again.

Last week, I had a rather frank phone call with a customer service manager from the company that provides my client resource management software. I expressed frustration over my struggles to use their new e-mail template application. He offered to have someone create the three templates for $250. All I had to do was send a document with the designs and he would have it done. I said that was fine and we hung up. Less than two minutes later, a receipt arrived in my in-box. It seems he had charged my credit card on file before I’d even had a chance to send him the specs. I am currently looking for a new CRM provider.

Five months ago, my wife, a dean at a university, contracted with a software service to provide some training on an application she had purchased. After four requests for an itemized invoice, it arrived by e-mail three days ago – no detail – just a bill for several thousand dollars. When she confronted her contact about the lack of detail, the delay in billing and the seemingly arbitrary amount, the woman said, “I guess you don’t trust us.” Well, DUH!

Most workplace decisions where money is spent involve other people. That means having relationships, and those relationships are dependent on trust. Is it me, or has our marketplace become so transactional that even those selling services lack the awareness that trust has to be built between them and their customers? Thankfully, these three examples are isolated incidents. Or are they? It’s been said that the trust that can take years to build can also be destroyed by one act of carelessness. Rather than mindlessly pushing the “invoice” button, we should all take time to consider the relationship every time we ask for payment.

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