Have you ever upset a client so much you thought there was no way you will ever be able to work for them again? Maybe it’s ok, as you did not want to work with that client again. But what if you do? What if they are one of your key or significant clients? Worse yet, what if they tell others about the poor experience?
In many ways our professional lives and our personal lives intersect, even if we don’t think they do. It has less to do with what we are doing and more to do with what we, as individuals, stand for. For example, if you go out to dinner and have an outstanding experience you are likely to tell others about it. A horrible experience has the same, albeit, negative affect. We all strive for the first scenario in our professional lives but every so often the second scenario does happen. When it does, is there anything we can do?
The simple answer is yes you can, and you will need to act. When a client is unsatisfied or unhappy there are things that can be done to improve the situation. Ask the client what you can or could have done better; ask them in such a way that they must articulate the answers. Start questions with “Help me understand…” or “From your perspective…”. Allow the client to vent. This is your time to listen and learn. It is imperative that you do not become combative or defensive during the dialogue which can only make the situation worse.
With the information in hand, it is time to create a plan for moving forward. You should consider this, even if you don’t want to work with that client again. If you do not wish to work with them again, consider it a learning experience. If you do want to continue with the relationship, the plan allows the client to understand you heard what the issues were and you are willing to take the steps to improve the situation. When relaying your plan back to the client, use phrases like “I heard you say…” or “Do you feel that by making this change we can…”. Generally when a client believes they have been wronged or that their expectations were not met, the problem stems from poor or inadequate communication. By using the phrases above, it shows you are listening and want to work together to rebuild the relationship.
If you consider the restaurant scenario; if the maître d’ provided a solution to the issues you had at dinner, you are likely to share that with others when you are telling them about your experience.
You still may not want to work with the client again, but your reputation is much less likely to take a hit if you make an effort to recognize the issues and provide a solution, based on the client’s needs, to move forward.