Strong client relationships are at the foundation of every successful business.
We all make mistakes, and sometimes even the best-laid plans fall through.
But, what if your mistake directly affects your client, their reputation, or revenue?
Does that mean the end of the relationship that you invested in so much?
Just like in other areas of life, relationships go sour and get broken in business, and consequences can be dire not only because you can lose that particular client. Bad word of mouth and unflattering reviews can additionally hurt your business, which is why you need to have a procedure in place for such situations.
So, the good news is that even a damaged customer relationship can be salvaged.
On the other hand, it’s up to you to do the lion’s share of the work in order to make things right.
Here are a couple of steps that you can take in an attempt to clean up the mess.
1. Assess the Issue
This is the most important step in repairing a client relationship that has gone south. You can do it unless you pinpoint the exact cause of the failure.
It’s crucial to understand the root of the problem and how deep it goes. This will allow you to establish how it happened and the extent of the damage.
While acting quickly when a crisis strike makes all the difference, you shouldn’t rush into things before you do proper research of the mistake. Respond to your client’s outreach immediately and tell them that you’ll look into the matter right away.
Don’t let them wait long, as they’ll only get angrier and more upset. By acknowledging their concern and worries quickly, you’ll show them that you don’t take their issues lightly.
Start by asking your client questions and listening carefully to what they have to say. Having this kind of conversation is tough and challenging, but it’s the only way to initiate the mending process and preventing the customer from churning.
2. Own the Mistake
Although the first reflex in such unpleasant situations is to defend yourself and seek to avoid blame, owning the mistake and offering a heartfelt apology is the best and only solution.
Don’t let your ego stand in the way of fixing the relationship.
Sometimes the blame will entirely result from the things that were under your control, while at other times, the mistake will be your client’s responsibility. In any case, it’s you who should be proactive and step up.
Even if it turns out that it’s your client’s blame, swallow your pride, and offer an apology as well as a suggestion to work things out together. It’s true that sometimes your client simply isn’t the right fit and in that case you need to decide whether that relationship is worth investing into.
Of course, if your negligence led to financial loss, it’s essential to compensate your client by paying for the mistake and all the additional incurred costs. Together with a sincere apology, this will definitely direct your relationship towards smoothing out the rough patch.
3. Establish Effective Communication
This is something that should be in effect since day one, but now it’s of tremendous importance to start communicating with your client and connecting with them.
The thing is that such advice usually seems like empty words and corny rhetoric that everybody keeps on repeating without actually understanding how to apply it.
Here are some tips on how to keep the lines of communication open:
- Be aware of your client’s background and culture. That’s how you’ll be able to speak their language without offending them or misinterpreting a certain message. By taking cultural differences into consideration, it will be possible to build a meaningful connection with your client and see things from their point of view, all of which is crucial for understanding the impact of a particular mistake.
- Listen actively. Let your client do the talking as that’s the best way to learn as much as possible about them and their perceptions. And when you talk, make sure that you don’t have any hidden agenda. The goal is to find a solution to the problem and having your client’s best interest in mind. Besides trying to establish the real problem, ask them how they feel about the mistake. This will take your communication to an emotional level and allow both of you to disclose your vulnerabilities and have an open conversation. To reach this level of communication, it’s best to ask open-ended questions and let your clients express themselves. Psychologically speaking, such a starting point can do wonders for re-building an even stronger relationship.
- Respect your client’s personal sensitivities. Mending a professional relationship can be difficult and unpleasant, so it’s important to make your client feel comfortable. If this means that you’ll have to say yes to a couple of their requirement, so be it. Show empathy and respect their needs.
4. Deliver More Than You Promised
Even if you offer your apology, make up for the mistake, and pay for any financial loss, your client will still have that bitter aftertaste of having to deal with a situation they didn’t bargain for.
Under such circumstances, it’s a good idea to go to even greater lengths to please your customer and help them to forget the bad thing that happened.
Do more than it’s stipulated in your agreement and offer them a special discount, premium features or functionalities free of charge, or anything that you know they will appreciate. This will make it clear to your client that they’re not just a source of income to you.
Show them that the success of their business matters to you a great deal, and by offering them additional services for free, you can start repairing your damaged relationship.
5. Re-Build the Trust by Improving the Processes
In order for your client to start trusting you again, it’s essential to ensure that you’ll do everything in order to prevent similar mistakes.
This requires going back to square one and redefining your processes. Let your client know that you’re working on identifying and eliminating errors and oversights that led to the issue. Keep them in the loop regarding everything and ask them to provide their feedback regarding whether they’re satisfied with your improvements.
It’s also a good idea to make everything transparent and create an actionable plan that will convince the client that you have taken extra measures of precaution that will prevent such mistakes from happening again.
6. Understand That Mending a Relationship Takes Time
Finally, it’s important to realize that a broken relationship can’t be fixed quickly.
It’s only natural that your client will still be suspicious for a while even after you’ve taken all the steps we discussed.
Don’t be impatient and just keep up the good work as that’s how you’ll gradually earn back your client’s trust and loyalty.
Following up on a regular basis is at the core of the healing process, and it can help you spot a potential issue before it snowballs into an actual crisis.