In my professional life I have found that when one mishap occurs with a client several more will follow. The succeeding chain-of-events tend to be embarrassing and aggravating. Worse yet, we sometimes feel like never showing up for business again. But we all know that won’t work, so what will?
“Be strong” is the slogan of a friend. Do not let anyone discover a problem has occurred. Instead, take the leadership role by announcing you discovered a problem and that you are on top of it.
Before distress hits the client, let it be known immediately that you are very sorry for the mishap. Outline the steps you plan to take to fix the situation. Avoid offering excuses but instead remain factual throughout the entire process of remedying what went wrong.
Remind your client that you are appreciative of their patience and their business. Thank them for remaining with you while the fix takes place.
In the case that your client is reasonable, all of the above should help you to not only remain on good terms but also encourage repeat business, testimonials and referrals. Most clients are grateful that you care enough to do all of the above on their behalf and will spread very good word of mouth about the excellent customer service.
On a rare occasion you will find a client who is not so reasonable. In this case, a sit-down face-to-face conversation is best. They may possibly rant and rave about the awful experience of working with you. The best you can do is to let them get all of their anger out into the open. The reason why is after the barrage is finished their anger disappears and they are more likely to listen.
Ask how they believe the incident should be resolved. Again, if they are unreasonable it is most likely their suggestion will be impossible to implement. In a low-key manner, address the suggestion and let it be known that you are unable to meet the request. However, be prepared to offer 3 alternative suggestions for them to choose the preferred one. Should they be truly unreasonable, you will be best off apologizing one more time and then decline further business.
Should you note a shred of understanding, the client will accept one of your suggestions. Negotiating a good outcome for all parties is always the ideal.
Once the problem(s) have been resolved, follow up as soon as possible to check for client satisfaction. Begin with thanking your client for allowing you to fix the problem. Ask how they perceived the process of fixing the error(s) and further inquire as to whether everything is now working to their satisfaction. Upon hearing their reply, you will know whether or not you are on a solid footing for future business. You might even gain an exclamation of appreciation from the client.
Should the client surprise you with their gratitude, this will be the perfect time to acknowledge your appreciation for theirs and ask when they would like you to follow-up.
The understanding, clarity and follow-through in customer service is what will put you on the wave of the Smooth Sale!
Elinor Stutz, CEO of Smooth Sale, LLC, (800) 704-1499, was honored by Open View Labs with inclusion in their international list of “Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012.” Elinor authored the International Best-Selling book, “Nice Girls DO Get the Sale: Relationship Building That Gets Results”, Sourcebooks and the best selling career book, “HIRED! How to Use Sales Techniques to Sell Yourself On Interviews”, Career Press.