Here’s how to convert a dissatisfied, cranky client into someone that sings your accounting firm’s praises for years to come.
Sometimes clients get mad and leave before you ever know there’s a problem. Other times, an unhappy customer isn’t the right fit and isn’t worth chasing. But surprisingly often, if you handle the situation well you can turn it around to create a long-lasting and highly productive relationship. Inc.com shares strategies to snatch a marketing win from the jaws of conflict. Are you up for the challenge? Take a deep breath and follow these seven steps to earn a loyal client who sings your praises.
- Greet hostility with gratitude. Though it’s not a pleasant experience, being dressed down by an irate client is actually a valuable gift. Letting you know what’s going on instead of leaving and sharing the information through rants to friends, family and social media networks gives you the gift of understanding. At least this way you have the chance to fix the problem and make sure it never happens to another client. Offer real thanks for the information followed by a sincere apology, and then ask for more details.
- Create space for the venting. Don’t try to shut down the process by being defensive or offering answers right away. Keep your inner zen flowing and really listen while communicating verbally and through your body language that it’s okay to share. What you’re hearing is valuable, whether you like it or not.
- Take the client’s side. Denying or giving explanations isn’t really productive, although it’s a natural response. As the face of the firm, make yourself accountable and be supportive rather than defensive. Validate the client’s feelings whether or not you think they are fully justified.
- Don’t run from the conflict. Avoiding the problem will make it worse. Few of us are comfortable with conflict, but if you remain supportive and sincere to resolve the situation completely, you’ll probably be rewarded with respect, appreciation and loyalty. Courage isn’t about not being afraid – it’s about being afraid and doing the job at hand anyway.
- Think positive. Avoid the temptation to give into thoughts that focus on what a giant pain in the butt this irrational client is. Instead, tailor your inner dialogue to recognize the wonderful opportunity for growth and success you’re facing. This is your chance to tame the wild beast in front of you, thus adding to your confidence that you can do the hard stuff.
- Rephrase your mental language. Find a way to describe what’s unpleasant about this client in admiring terms. To connect with a person, you’ve got to actually like some aspect of his or her personality, so start thinking like a diplomat. Admire the way the client isn’t afraid to communicate boldly (rather than thinking “How rude!”) or be impressed at the good memory (instead of resenting the litany of large and small offenses you’re being accused of).
- Fix it. After listening calmly, viewing the situation from the client’s perspective and finding something positive to identify with, it’s time to make amends. Find out what would make it better. Do this with sincerity and no hint of desperation. You’re proud of your firm and its relationship with clients; you know you can solve this problem in a way that feels good for everyone. What can you do for the client to correct the situation and show how much you regret that it happened in the first place? Most clients, after calming down and getting a chance to vent, will be happy to explain exactly what they want. And usually, what they most want is to know that you care they’re upset.
Running into an unhappy client isn’t fun, by any means. But in the end, it’s better than not doing so and finding out about the situation through nasty online reviews and bad word of mouth. And when clients who have had a problem feel that their issues have been properly addressed, they frequently become some of your most loyal and vocal supporters. Most people don’t expect perfection, and they very much appreciate having their concerns treated as important when problems arise. Take these moments as the valuable opportunities they are (but it’s okay to be glad you don’t get a lot of them).