No matter how pleasant and responsive your service. Regardless of the joy or convenience your products bring to your customers’ lives. At some point, every business faces a strained client relationship.
Tell-Tale Signs a Client Relationship is Going Downhill
The frequency of communication and a client’s responsiveness are tell-tale signs of how well a relationship is at any given time. Client relationships are similar to friendships. You look forward to talking to the other person simply because you enjoy the conversation and perspective. In a client relationship, there is work to be discussed and done, but catching up and sharing a joke or two indicate the relationship is in a good place. Something is wrong when communication becomes less frequent than usual, the tone of conversation turns cold or becomes matter of fact. If a response that used to take a few hours now takes days or weeks to receive, most likely it means you’re no longer on speed dial or a priority.
Two Ways to Approach an Unhappy Client
When a client is unhappy with the product or service you’ve provided, there are two ways to approach the situation. Let’s get the second one out of the way first. You could avoid dealing with the issue until the relationship dies away. There are circumstances where avoidance may be your preference and best for both you and the client.
If salvaging the relationship is important to you, then now is the time to speak truth to power. No dancing or scrambling. No hiding or avoiding. Address the problem head-on and take accountability. And, do it quickly. Anyone whose skin is too thin to take criticism or is too stubborn to listen shouldn’t be in the room or on the call if a personal meeting is impossible.
Begin on a positive note. Identify what is right about your product or service. That gives a starting point where everyone can agree on what went well and reminds the client that he or she was at least a little happy. Then, ask about what is below expectations. Normally, talking about the process, not the end result is best because it helps eliminate subjectivity. “I don’t like it,” is not enough constructive feedback to make informed change. It’s more important to understand where the process broke down. Most of the time, simple improvements in communication will improve the outcome as it helps set realistic expectations.
Better Yet, Prevent Relationships from Becoming Strained
Think about industries that have a horrible billing and service reputation; health insurance companies, cable TV companies and the phone company. Don’t do what they do. Explain your invoices, whether asked to or not. You can’t always predict how a client will react to your service or product, especially when it falls under the creative category. But delivering a confusing bill only adds insult to injury, making matters worse.
Of course, you can’t make all the people happy all of the time. But, oftentimes by addressing a problem early and earnestly, you can make a relationship stronger and better than it ever was.