Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ask Charlotte 2: Referral Refusal

Hello again Chocolateers!

This week, we have a question from someone who tried to do a good deed and is now caught in a conflict between a client and a colleague.

Dear Charlotte: HELP!  My reputation among friends and clients hangs in the balance. Please let me know how to handle this.  I'm a seasoned, well-respected event planner working in a small town. A client, a well-known businesswoman in town, Mrs. B., asked me to refer a caterer for a private dinner party she was hosting for her granddaughter's college graduation.  I felt confident in my referral, as this caterer and I have worked together very successfully for years and she is well known in our town among the dinner party circle. Mrs. B. was not pleased with the caterer's work. She called me, very upset. This is the ONLY time I've ever heard a bad review. Not only is Mrs. B. annoyed with me, but she wants me to convince the caterer to refund her. 

Frankly, I don't think I should be placed in this situation. The caterer is well-loved and always gets business from this circle. All I did was make the referral. What is the extent of my responsibility, here?--Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck: I understand how you must feel. On the one hand, you recommended your colleague based on her strong reputation for good service. On the other, your credibility with Mrs. B. could be on the rocks. 

Your question is a good one and not uncommon: What is the extent of your responsibility? In my opinion, you did as you were asked, in that you recommended someone with good references and history and a standard of quality service. What Mrs. B. is asking you to do is to insert yourself into a business transaction that has proceeded without your earlier involvement, jeopardizing your relationship with the vendor, your colleague. You feel like you are being forced to choose sides, and you'd really rather not. You feel like there's no way out.

Given your unique circumstances, however, you would be best served to sit with each party separately, and chat in earnest with them. Listen to Mrs. B. and acknowledge her concerns. Sit with your colleague as well, making sure that you honor each parties' privacy. Urge them to sit with one another in a non-confrontational setting, where their different approaches can be shared, likely in the presence of a third, impartial party so that a fair resolution can be reached. Good luck!

How would you handle this if you were the one asked for a recommendation? Please leave your comment below.  Got a question for Charlotte? Reach out to or drop us a note right here.

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