Welcome to another Being Unstoppable Poddy! Today we have a serious topic that we will all come to head with – no matter how successful your business is… Difficult clients and complaints are part of being in business. And depending on what type of business you are in is also a determining factor.
The more people you serve, the more complaints you will get. For me, in the family law business, it is inevitable that we receive difficult clients because, hey, it is such a high-pressure time and let’s be honest, who wants to spend their hard-earned money on a divorce lawyer – I understand! Although this can be frustrating, it is how you deal with these issues that really count.
I am going to share with you how to gracefully deal with difficult clients and ensure they do not ruin your week, month or even your business.
Do not take complaints personally!
Put your emotions aside. This is not about you personally, this isn’t about you as a person. This is business. No matter where the complaint is coming from, whether it be a mistake that has been made or whether it is a person who feels they need to complain for no reason what so ever, it is also important to listen to what the client is saying. You never know, you may learn something.
When responding to a client complaint, here is what you need to do:
1. Avoid challenging the complaint/issue;
When someone makes a complaint, the natural thing to do is to get on the defence but that is going to make things worse. Do not tell the customer that they are wrong, this will escalate the situation. Instead of challenging the complaint, listen to what they are saying and this may sound crazy, but thanking the client for their feedback can positively affect your business. If it is a genuine complaint, that is some really good information that you can use to better that area of your business and iron out any service issues you have.
Be grateful that this client had the courage to reach out and give you this useful source of information that is going to help your business flourish.
Kill them with kindness!
2. When a client complains, it can often be because they need a vent, not because they need a solution!
This type of complainant does not want anything out of it, or for you to solve a problem – they just want to be heard, so… Just hear them out and it may be enough to defuse the entire situation! I am often surprised that just by listening to the client and giving that time to them, that it resolves.
3. Acknowledge what they have said and where they are coming from;
This does not mean just listening to them and their complaint. This means letting the client know that this is appreciated and you have taken it on board. The client is not expecting you to acknowledge, they are expecting you to fight back. So, when you acknowledge them, you are automatically defeating their expectation because they might have received that type of event in the past.
4. Be flexible and don’t be rigid in this situation;
Now, your client may not want a resolution, they might just be looking for an ear to be heard. If they do want a resolution, you need to be flexible to meet on some grounds. This doesn’t necessarily mean a discount or writing the bill off, as this isn’t always possible in every industry. Sometimes, it may suit your business to give a discount, but sometimes it may be to suggest a different service provider within your business. Perhaps, you may need to oversee the work yourself or maybe you need to arrange more face-to-face meetings. There are so many ways you can help the client out, but be flexible.
Once you have narrowed it down to a specific solution, ask the client if that would be satisfactory for them. Communicate with that client and work together to create a positive ending to this.
5. Make sure your client knows what you are saying;
Sometimes when we are offering a solution or working on what we can or cannot do to accommodate your client, you might need to ask them if they understand the solution offered and what it is. You have to do this in a non-demining way and state your intent. This is best done in an email, or if you have spoken via telephone to relay the conversation and in writing.
6. Do offer an apology… with gratitude!
The thing about offering an apology is that you do not need to apologize for the topic they have complained about. You need to be honest because your apology must be genuine, and if it is not, clients will see right through you. You can either apologise for the action that the client is not happy about or you can apologise that the client felt this way in regard to your service. It is just acknowledging that you have heard them, you have listened and you are prepared to give an apology.
7. Follow to customer up a few days later;
As we mentioned above, you should set out in an email to the client what the solution you have agreed upon is, and then a few days later, follow up with the client to check on how the solution is going for them. This will make them feel appreciated and will let them know that they are an important client to you. All clients are important to businesses as we would not have a business without our clients. We do want to make sure that we are looking after them!
8. Move on!
Don’t dwell on a complaint. This takes away time that you could use working on your business. Clients who complain can take a massive chunk out of your day if you sit on it for too long. It will affect your team and even your other clients. Depending on how you deal with it and how fast you move on with it, it depends on how long this process will take to move past the complaint. Do not lose focus from receiving a complaint; it can easily suck up energy and rejig your teams workday.
The key is, if you have a structure when it comes to receiving complaints, you will be able to move through that complaint seamlessly and effectively to get the best result. When you have this streamlined process, you can go home, switch off and not lose any personal time to these tricky times as a biz owner!
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