How to answer a client's sticky questions
Have you ever done an appraisal that made the client furious? "What do you mean my diamond isn't worth what I paid for it in 1983?" the client asks. Here's how to calm him down, maintain your status as a professional and stick to your appraisal.
The best way to avoid accusatory questions after an appraisal is to gain your clients' trust before. During your first meeting, show your appraisal credentials, briefly outline the appraisal process and always treat the clients and their jewelry with respect. When possible, allow the clients to watch while you identify gems, plot diamonds and test metals. Show the jewelry under a microscope and explain as you go.
Encourage clients to call you if they have questions later. Once they know you welcome questions, they're less likely to think you would deceive them. They're also more likely to feel you'll have a logical explanation for their concerns.
Take a Moment to Regroup
If you receive a call from an angry customer, calmly say you understand the situation is upsetting, that you need to review your notes on the appraisal and that you'll call back in a few minutes. Review the appraisal and call the client immediately. Go through the appraisal process with the client, highlight the research you did to arrive at a value and mention any auction houses you consulted. Be sure the client understands you didn't simply guess at the value.
Have a Logical Answer
Be prepared to answer questions concerning value. Values can differ for many reasons, including market changes, the influence of the Internet, past "investment" buying, geographical differences and changes in the jewelry's condition. Chances are one or more of these influences will explain why your client is confused. Never make up an answer if you don't know, find out and follow up with the client.
Don't Criticize Another Appraiser
If you've appraised an item lower than another appraiser did, your client will think you're wrong. In fact the client seldom questions the old appraisal no matter how shoddily prepared it is. Tempting though it may be, never make a verbal attack on the other appraiser because it makes the whole industry suspect. Even if it's obvious the old appraisal is inflated, fraudulent or blatantly stupid, concentrate your response on the excellent quality of your work and the process you followed to reach a value.
Do Your Best
Always perform appraisals with the highest personal and professional standards. If you are honest and never use your appraisals as sales tools or inflate your values, you will greatly minimize the number of irate client questions.
Julie Nash and Arthur Skuratowicz operate Anton Nash LLC, Independent Jewelry Appraisers and Consultants, Colorado Springs, CO.