When you miss an appointment--a Veeto micro-consultation, for example--what should you do?
First, read this.
So much contention follows failure to be accountable.
Party A and party B enter into an agreement, and party B fails to hold up his end of the bargain. When that happens, both party A and party B get to decide how to handle the situation. How party B handles the situation regards party B's commitment to being accountable for his own shortcomings. How party A handles the situation regards which kinds of post-shortcoming behaviors party A wishes to reward/deter.
Both parties have a choice.
[Accountability] is the readiness or preparedness to give an explanation or justification to relevant others (stakeholders) for one’s judgments, intentions, acts and omissions when appropriately called upon to do so.
It is [also] a readiness to have one’s actions judged by others and, where appropriate, accept responsibility for errors, misjudgments and negligence and recognition for competence, conscientiousness, excellence and wisdom. It is a preparedness to change in the light of improved understanding gained from others.
Let me give you an example with which you're probably very familiar.
Let's say that you schedule an appointment to see a doctor about a cough.
Your appointment is at 10 AM two days from now. On the day of your appointment, you arrive at 9:55 AM and sit down in the chair to await being called back to see the doctor. Forty-five minutes later, they call your name--forty minutes after your appointment start time. You follow the nurse back to a room where you sit down and once again wait. The nurse might ask you some preliminary questions before leaving you alone in the room, but in any case, the doctor does not enter the room until fifteen minutes after you entered it--fifty-five minutes after your appointment start time.
No-shows, or missed appointments, are a problem for many medical practices. They result in fragmented care and reduce access for all patients.
—a study funded by the Massachusetts General Hospital Physician Organization and the Internal Medicine Associates
Now, do you suppose the doctor will either apologize for being fifty-five minutes late or offer to make it right? No, probably not. Sadly, this scenario is commonplace in American doctors' offices.
Doctors pay lobbyists and interest groups millions of dollars per year to study how much money doctors lose due to no-shows ("Missed appointments cost providers $150 billion annually, report says"), yet doctors don't even admit that the problems related to appointments not being kept also affect their patients--at least to the patients themselves.
This is hypocrisy, and it breeds further lack of accountability. In fact, it trains patients to be a little less accountable for their own behaviors, merely as a defense against doctors who don't behave fairly.
When buyers and sellers are not mutually accountable...
The reason I use healthcare practices as my example is because it's a good microcosm of both the unfairness and financial harms at play when buyers and sellers are not mutually accountable. Just look at this example cancellation/no-show policy:
In the example depicted above, there are some parts I agree with but also some parts with which I take issue.
Accountability is a core Veeto value.
We built Veeto to give "the little guy" a way to force bad-acting sellers to be accountable, and it's become a powerful tool for that purpose. In many of our use-cases (meaning one type of contract with one opponent), for example, we've never actually lost a case. The average ROI on every dollar spent with Veeto exceeds 30x. Where else in your life/business can you consistently get that kind of return?
We built Veeto to give "the little guy" a legal advantage. But we did not build it to give unaccountable people a way to defend their unaccountability. For this reason, we have a very stringent filter upfront for deciding who we will work with. In short, if you give any indication that you are not someone to be trusted--which is the basis of mutual accountability--then we will simply decline to work with you. In this way, we ensure that we're actually making the world a better place rather than just amplifying the vices of anyone who happens to find us. We say "no" at least once per month. It's an extremely small percentage of cases to which we say "no," but it happens often enough for us to be aware of the way that this makes us different as a company.
You can see this by how we constantly strive to dismantle barriers to mutual trust with our customers. We obsess over full disclosure. We list not only features of every service we provide but also some of its limitations. We recommend that you not hire us when we don't think we're best positioned to help you. And on and on...
Building a culture of accountability at every level of your business is essential to success, and setting up a company for true victory requires all workers to feel as though what they do (or don’t do) has consequence. This actually applies to customers as well—while they’re not a part of the internal ecosystem, a company that is accountable for its actions in the world at large will have an easier time holding its constituents accountable when something is not working.
Once you know this, all of the interactions you have with Veeto might make more sense.
Accountability is not about punishment and reward.
Rather, it's about admitting when you mess up. The punishment of no-show fees and so forth are just mechanisms to encourage accountability in those people who either lacking in sufficient fortitude or unsure of what is expected of them following a commitment.
If you admit when/if you mess up, and then put the decision in the hands of the other party whose time your mistake wasted, then you're being accountable, and you should be proud of yourself--too few people have the courage to do this, nowadays.
Any other response after you miss an appointment, that is not preceded by this hat-in-hand admission will likely not yield the results you're hoping for--which you might be accustomed to getting from other businesses. Veeto is just different. So be prepared to be accountable, or be prepared for us to decline to work with you.
Time is a non-renewable resource.
It doesn't matter whether you show up to the appointment or not--if the service provider allocates some of its finite time to spend with you during a particular calendar slot, that time cannot be recovered once that calendar slot passes by. Keep that in mind when you schedule an appointment with any service provider: if you treat the service provider's time as precious as your own, and as precious as it is, then you should be able to find sufficient motivation to be a good steward of it.
Now, of course, emergencies will sometimes happen. They happen to everyone, and when they happen to you and they cause a conflict with a previously scheduled appointment, you should do two things immediately:
In cancelling the appointment, you should apologize for the change and offer to make it right. Why do I say that?
This is how Veeto handles situations in which we make a mistake.
It's simple: we apologize and offer to make it right. As simple as that may strike you, think about how rare it is nowadays for people to do that.
But over the last decade, we've found that this simple approach works wonders in the face of schedule-change.
For example, if someone is new to Veeto, then they are probably not already using our inbox-sync service Hubscriber (whereby we manage all of your vendors/contracts for you on an ongoing basis, directly from your existing inbox). In that case, because we're not already familiar with your vendor/contract problem, the process has to begin with some exchange of information so that we know enough about the case to advise how we can help. For that purpose, we use 10-minute micro-consultations, for which we charge $32 (including payment processing).
Now, obviously no one is getting rich off of $30. So why do we charge it? It's an effective way to encourage commitment-keeping, and it generally works in two ways:
There is a third consequence of the $30 fee that, while also rare, we care an awful lot about as a company. One of our core values is accountability, and for this reason, we strive to only do business with people who share that value. It's probably only happened 6 or 7 times in ten years, but there have been occasions when someone missed the micro-consultation appointment without warning and later tried to aver accountability. One example of this was when someone did not answer his phone or email for 20 minutes beginning a few minutes before the start of the scheduled 10-minute slot. An hour later, he called back demanding that we speak with him immediately, and he accused us of not calling him. So we sent him the email and phone records proving otherwise, and he changed his approach, only then switching to apology mode. He rescheduled the call, and we advised him on his case during the micro-consultation. But when he asked us to handle his case for him thereafter, we declined, and we were straightforward with him that our reasons had a lot to do with what appeared to be our different stances on accountability.
Everyone makes mistakes.
When it happens to me, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I hate that feeling, realizing that I totally dropped the ball.
Because of what Veeto does, we deal with a lot of ball-droppers on a regular basis. Usually the ball-droppers are the vendors on the other side of a dispute with our client, and many of them could easily teach a masterclass on avoiding accountability. But sometimes, even if rarely, the ball-dropper is our client, and the most common way this reveals itself is when our client misses a scheduled appointment with us.
But you know what? Sometimes, even if also rare, we make mistakes too. Sometimes we have missed appointments too. In those cases, our response is simple: we apologize and offer to make it right. Specifically, we offer to reschedule or refund the micro-consultation fee immediately. When we mess up, the choice is the other party's to make. We don't coerce, and we don't let sales quotas influence our decision to leave it entirely up to the customer how to proceed. When we mess up, in short, we account for it.
This thing that some people do wherein they try to paint the other party as the culprit for the painter's own mistake--yeah, we try really hard not to do that, and we have no problem losing money, profit, or time if it's what making it right requires.
It's a high standard, but it's also a fair and simple standard. We curate our customers just as our customers curate who they do business with.
...and the result is that we tend to only work with really good people/businesses, with whom mutual accountability seems to be a shared value.
So no hard feelings if we don't consider you to be one of them.
The Delightful Thing That Happens When You Hold Your Vendors Accountable
It’s a story I’ve heard from lawyers and non-lawyers alike almost every day for over a decade, and it makes me angry every time.
Justin thought he was riding high last year when he finally struck out to start his own law firm. Having spent the four years after law school working as an associate at a larger firm in town, he had, by then, a decent book of business stemming from all of the relationships he had formed around town. So cash-flow was good; that was not the problem.
The problem was his landlord. Justin liked the office location and some of the amenities included with his lease, but he constantly found himself distracted from his own work when there was a problem with his office space that needed to be resolved. Yes, he knew how to get the legal stuff resolved--that's kind of the upside of three years and a couple hundred thousand dollars spent in law school.
The problem was all the time it took to do that work--that non-client work. His firm just wasn't big enough yet to have a dedicated vendor/contract manager on his staff. So, like any other small business owner, he had to do it all; and each moment he spent resolving operational issues with flaky vendors, he was not able to work on building his own firm, taking care of his clients, growing his revenue, etc.
That's why lawyers like Justin outsource contract management to Veeto; because we can hold your vendors accountable for you, so you can focus on what you do best; and when you can hold your vendors accountable, you can squeeze the maximum ROI out of every dollar your small business spends.
Most small businesses will never figure this out, and that's why most small businesses struggle.
But the few small businesses who do figure this out will thrive. That's how Justin did it.
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