No matter how hard you try, there will always be clients that have legitimate (and not so legitimate) complaints that damage your relationship. Following are 4 steps for repairing the relationships that you truly value.
1. Listen and Apologize
Start by asking a simple open-ended question, such as “How can I help you?” and then listen without interrupting. Once the client is finished, it’s time for a sincere apology. Remember that until the client has finished their story, any apology that you give will sound insincere. A disingenuous apology will only make the situation worse. Experts say that if you can’t offer a genuine apology, it’s better not to apologize at all. On the other hand, don’t grovel; apologize sincerely and then move on.
Saying that you’re sorry, doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with what the client is saying, only that you understand what happened and how they feel, which has the powerful effect of validating the client’s experience.
2. Offer a Concrete Concession
Let the client know what you plan to do to remediate the issue. The concession needs to be concrete—complete with an expected fulfillment date. For example, if you offer to replace the item with a newer model, let the client know exactly when they can expect the item to arrive. Be sure to ask the client if the proposed resolution sounds fair and be sure that you more than make up for the loss (or perceived loss). Don’t just replace the item, either replace it with something better or add value in some other way.
3. Go the Extra Mile to Demonstrate Sincerity
The client wants to see that you’re putting some time and effort into fixing the problem and a visit obviously entails a lot more time and effort than an email. The order of effectiveness for subsequent follow up efforts is this:
3. Handwritten thank-you note
The reason that a call or visit is so much more effective than an email or even a handwritten thank-you note is that, in addition to demonstrating effort, they are personal interactions that allow a conversation. It’s a lot harder for a client to stay mad when they can see that they’re dealing with a fellow human being.
4. Follow Up With Another Concrete Favor
Once the client has received the concession, be sure to follow up. Once you know the client is satisfied, perform a smaller second “above and beyond” favor (such as sending or stopping by with a gift card) a couple of weeks later.
Experts say that if you handle complaints correctly, you can strengthen your relationships with unhappy clients beyond what they were before the conflict arose. Looking at the situation from this angle, unhappy clients create opportunities for your organization and its excellent customer service to really shine.
This assumes that you want to repair the relationship. There are some clients, though, that will never be happy no matter what you do. Here are a few indicators that you need to let those clients go:
1. They frequently ask for special favors and/or price breaks.
2. Your customer service reps frequently have to transfer the client’s calls to a supervisor.
3. You’ve gone the extra mile to make them happy and they still aren’t happy.
4. You see no indicators of any of this changing.
The client’s purchase volume and dissatisfaction
rate may also have some bearing on your decision.
Businesses tend to end relationships with clients whose demands abuse company policies and/or damage profitability and morale.