Last week we talked about how to shine from your greatest failures. How to handle mistakes, even if they weren’t yours, in such a way that your client’s loyalty actually increases. And although that sounds like a fantasy, it’s not.
Unfortunately though, there are a few customers who just can’t be satisfied once a mistake has been made. They want you to start working for free, give them products for free, and sometimes there’s a threat. If you don’t do this, then, I’ll sue you, ruin your career and reputation via social media, etc. These clients, thankfully, are few and far between, but they do exist. So, how do you handle them? Let’s talk about it. It’s a three step process.
1. Listen to Them Fully
When a client is telling you how stupid and awful you and your business are, do everything in your power to just listen. Avoid interrupting them, defending yourself, or even asking for clarification while they’re still mid sentence. Let them get it all out. For as long as it takes. What they’re angry about may help you avoid mistakes with future clients, and it can give you clues about how to help this currently livid client. Saying things like, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” or “Let me stop you right there.” are a recipe for disaster. Sometimes all a client really wants is someone to sit down and really listen to their laundry list of complaints.
2. Apologize and Ask for More Time
Once you’ve let your client have their time to spew their anger, apologize for the mistake. And then let them know you’ll work your hardest to see if it’s possible to get them what they want. Even if you know it’s impossible. If they want a new custom made couch by the end of next week because this one has the wrong fabric, of course you know that can’t happen. But, don’t tell them that right away. Let them know you need time to see if you can make this work. And then genuinely try. Even if you know it can’t happen by the end of next week, maybe it’s possible to get a delivery in 6 weeks instead of 8.
Letting them know that you need time to work on the solution does a number of things. It allows them time to cool down. Gives you time to cool down and start thinking creatively. And it shows them you’re genuinely trying to right the situation. Even if you know they’re out of their mind with their demands. And work quickly, but not too quickly. If you call an angry client back in ten minutes saying, sorry, that won’t work. They’ll think you didn’t try. So, wait at least a few hours, but no longer than 24 hours to get back to them. Any longer and they may begin to get even more angry.
3. Avoid Saying No
Now, after you’ve let your client know that you needed time to see if you can get them what they want, and you can’t, it’s time to let them know your solution. Now, saying, “No, we can’t do that” to a client who has threatened your career is never a relaxing moment. So, what do you do? Don’t tell them no. Instead, focus more on what you can do and let them know you genuinely tried.
You could say something like, “As soon as we ended our meeting I spoke with my rep at the sofa company. I asked if they would be able to complete the sofa by next week as you had asked. And although they’re unable to make that deadline, they agreed to push the order to the top of the line and get it to us in 4 to 6 weeks instead of the usual 8 to 10.” Now, sure, that’s not great. It’s not what they wanted, but you let them know you genuinely tried your hardest to help them get what they wanted. And that you were able to improve upon a bad situation. And if you’re able to come up with any solutions for that next waiting period, even better. Is there a way that you can rent a sofa for that client for a few weeks? Or lend them a couple of chairs in your inventory ? Something to show you’re genuinely doing the best you can.
Never Stop Improving
Once it’s all over and you’ve tamed the tyrant, take a moment to think, what went wrong? How could this have been avoided in the first place? Some mistakes are unavoidable. But, some aren’t. Every time an issue pops up, resolve it. Then think, how do we stop this from happening again? Maybe it’s adding a step to your confirmation process with a vendor. Maybe it’s checking in with your design assistant again before everything is ordered. Or speaking with your work room once everything has been delivered, but the work hasn’t started yet. Take the Lowe’s slogan to heart, “Never Stop Improving.” Because although the client may have handled the issue in a completely ridiculous way, there may be a nugget of truth in there. Something that could have been done to prevent the situation in the first place. And to keep it from happening again.
If you’d like even more ideas on how to handle client issues, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org find out more!