Saturday, January 28, 2006

10 Steps to Happier Clients

I believe you should be doing everything you can to encourage your clients to complain. Now, you must think I'm nuts. Let me explain. Clients who take the time to complain usually end up happier and happier clients are more likely to give you referrals.

Some clients will complain to you about anything and everything. Some will only complain about the big things. Most clients will not complain about the little stuff. They prefer to let things slide. The problem with this is that it usually leads to resentment towards you, and you losing their business. However, if they complain and you take good care of them, then you are likely to create a happy and satisfied client, who may give you a lot of referrals during the time they work with you.

A client with an unexpressed complaint is not going to give you referrals, and they're probably a candidate to move their business somewhere else - sooner or later. You have to create an environment of doing business with you that fosters your clients' candid communication.
How You Receive Complaints is Critical

When a client is registering a complaint with you, the first few words out of your mouth and first few actions you take can make all the difference for them and for you. Start off on the wrong foot and it gets worse. Start off on the right foot and it usually gets much easier.

When receiving complaints:

1. Say, "I'm sorry." (Be genuine!) Saying "I'm sorry" is not admitting fault. You're sorry they're upset, frustrated, or just not happy with something you or someone in your company did. Saying "I'm sorry" is an _expression of empathy that begins to diffuse any negativity they may be holding.

2. Honor their perspective (whatever it is). Their perspective on the situation may be way off base. That doesn't matter, at first. First, you have to treat their position with honor. As you learn more about it, and they feel heard, you can begin to work on changing their perspective (if appropriate).

3. Don't get defensive. I think there is a natural tendency for most people to want to protect themselves when someone complains. Resist this at all costs. Demonstrate you're there for them with statements such as "Tell me more."

4. Don't make excuses or argue. First, you never win an argument with a client. Even if you win the battle, you'll probably lose the war (the client will walk). After you've completely heard the client's position and after you have a solution that pleases the client, you may tell them some of the reasons that contributed to the problem, but doing this too soon in the process will appear as if you are making excuses and not taking responsibility.

5. Fully understand the problem. To demonstrate that you fully understand their complaint, repeat back to them what you think you heard.

6. Tell them what you're going to do next and when you'll be done - if appropriate to the situation. Some complaints have no resolution; your client just needs to be heard.

7. Tell them when you'll call them back. Make and honor a commitment. If you can't honor the commitment, call them and let them know you're still working on it.

8. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. Especially for the little stuff, you want to thank your clients for not holding back. You want to let them know that you desire communication that is as candid as possible.

9. Resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The quicker the resolution, the less it will affect the overall relationship.

10. Follow through and follow up until the problem has been resolved and all residual emotions have been cleaned up.

TEACHING POINT: A relationship (any relationship) that's had a problem - that's been handled well - is a stronger relationship than one that's never had a problem. Get good at encouraging candid communication from your clients so you can stop a small problem from becoming a bigger one. And when clients do complain, learn to be "comfortable" in the complaint. Your clients can tell the difference.

PS: Teach all your staff how to deal with complaints. Role play so they get skilled.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
For more business-building ideas, go to:

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: