It’s easy to connect with clients when things are going well. But when conflict arises, well, that’s when knowing how to transform customer frustration into a stronger business relationship is critical.
It happens to the best of us. An upset client calls to complain about a product or service, and you’re completely caught off guard. How do you react? Do you fly off the handle right along with him? Or do you respond in a calm, thoughtful way that salvages and even strengthens your relationship?
Author Maribeth Kuzmeski says that a high-pressure scenario doesn’t have to blow your client relationship sky-high—in fact, you can use it as an opportunity to connect with your client and keep him around for the long haul.
Kuzmeski offers a few tips that will help you keep your business relationships from going bad…and rescue those that have started to sour.
Extend a peace offering. It’s easy to reach out to clients when things are going well. However, it’s all too easy to avoid them when hard feelings are present. Don’t succumb to the temptation. Proactively reaching out to your clients can squash any negativity they may feel for you. Even the simplest of gestures can be effective: Offer an apology when you’ve made a mistake. Then, make things right by extending a peace offering. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant. It can be as simple as a hand-written note, a refund, or a coupon.
Don’t follow your “strike back” instincts. If an angry client calls you fuming mad, your knee-jerk reaction might be to argue. Remember, though, fighting anger with anger seldom works. No matter how tough it is, do the opposite of what you feel like doing. Take a deep breath and remain calm. And most of all, diffuse your client’s anger by immediately assuring her that you will make it right.
Get them to listen to you by…listening to them. Customers will listen to what you have to say if you respectfully listen to what they have to say first. Knowing that you are truly listening to their concerns can cause your customers to agree to your suggestions much more quickly.
Have a standard service protocol at the ready. Creating standards, procedures, and methods of dealing with clients and servicing their needs can really help when it comes to resolving conflicts or handling a dissatisfied customer. By creating a service protocol in advance, you provide a way to “enforce” how client conflict situations are handled. This allows you and your employees to more easily resolve issues and deal with those impossibly and consistently difficult clients.
Ask for feedback. Obviously, you don’t have to sit around, anxiously wondering when a problem is going to arise. There is a way for you to avoid some (unfortunately, not all!) client conflicts. You can do it by ensuring that customers aren’t suppressing problems. And you do that by constantly asking for feedback.
“Conflict is a normal part of business, and we all need to learn how to deal with it in the right way,” says Kuzmeski, author of The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life. “Some clients are just plain difficult. And yes, ‘easy’ clients can also become dissatisfied for a variety of reasons. The good news is that there are effective ways to handle conflict and resolve issues—and these methods will actually strengthen your relationship.
About the Author: Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. Maribeth has personally consulted with some of the world’s most successful CEOs, entrepreneurs, and professionals. An internationally recognized speaker, she shares the tactics that businesspeople use today to create more sustainable business relationships, sales, and marketing successes. Maribeth is the author of four books, including The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life. She has frequently appeared on TV and radio, and has written articles on marketing strategies for hundreds of publications including BusinessWeek and Entrepreneur. She regularly speaks to audiences on topics relating to business development, marketing, and sales strategies. About the Book: The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life (Wiley, September 2009, ISBN: 978-0-470-48818-8, $22.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or directly from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. For more information, please visit www.redzonemarketing.com and www.theconnectorsbook.com.