Business writer Cherise Castle-Blugh has a strategy for dealing with difficult customers
A Policy for Dealing with Negative Situations in Your Business
If a prospective client objects to your work and reacts negatively against what you do, your reactions, or non-reaction, can either save or hurt your business. You can choose to react based on your emotions. (I know you’ll be having an emotional breakdown because no one likes when someone says or does something negative towards them). You’ll question your abilities, you’ll feel angry and frustrated, or you might start experiencing a much dreaded bout of your own imposter syndrome.
Another option is to give up the expert position for that moment in your dealing with that client, and allow the client to push you into a never-ending list of constant revisions.
However, neither of these responses is helpful to your business and you might just become a pushover. Here is a much better plan to adopt:
When a client expresses objections, I suggest you take a step back and examine the situation. Pay attention to the emotions of your clients. Are they angry, slightly perturbed, confused, anxious or afraid? Is it that they’re not understanding? Is it something that you need to try explaining differently? Is the process stalled by indecisiveness or is there an apparent lack of confidence in you and your business?
Respond in a way that will alow your clients to express themselves freely. You can ask open-ended questions like, “What makes you feel that way?” or “What do you think is missing?”
When you understand the cause of their objection, give as many options in order to alleviate their fears.
ACKNOWLEDGE AND ACCEPT
Once you’ve evaluated the objection/s, acknowledge it. Always thank your clients for providing feedback, even if it’s negative. Remind them that their feedback is essential to the growth of your business as you aim to serve them.
Your clients want to be heard. That’s the reason why they talk out. You may be feeling anxious about what type of feedback you would receive and that’s perfectly normal. You can and should, gently call your client to see how they feel/felt working with your business, so you can improve.
Feedback from you is also important. Immediate, visible and actionable feedback is important, so that your client knows you’ve heard them and are willing to work with them.
When you receive positive feedback, thank your client for their kind and thoughtful words they willingly shared. Thank them also for taking the time to leave you their thoughts. Do the same for those who leave negative reviews. People are really busy these days and it must mean something to them, for they to give you their time and thought. Then return the favour kindly. Tell them what a pleasure it was to work with them and that you wish to continue serving them in the best way possible. Tell them that you aim to provide a better experience for them the next time around. This will keep you alert. Your client will hold you to your word, and you gain a repeat customer.
Negative feedback ought to be handled cautiously and timely. Listen carefully to what your clients are saying before responding hastily. You will be tempted to, but you’ll do yourself and your business a great favour if you listen first. Be sure to respond quickly. Do not feel overwhelmed and delete the negative comments or posts as this will show your lack of transparency, and stay focused in your response. Avoid getting carried away in an ongoing argument. Try to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible.
REASSURE AND RE-DIRECT
It is important that you reassure your client and your onlooking audience in light of what is happening instead of ignoring the situation. It must be said again, that you must do so in a timely manner. Step into this moment and reassure your client especially. Remind yourself that you are the expert. You’ve had many clients satisfied with your work, been successful at executing your projects, and you can see them through to the end. You need to stay calm and redirect your focus to satisfying the customer. Remember, that one bad experience, for just one unsatisfied customer, can ruin your business. It might even shut you down.
In this moment with your client, talk without passing blame. Offer to reverse the situation, ask if they would prefer a particular colour, or an entirely different design, or if they would like a certain element added or removed. You need to focus always on your client's feelings… with the aim of resolving their fears, and alleviating their anxieties, or insecurities. As you work calmly with your client, focusing on their emotions, a few things will happen. Your client will now feel relaxed; a great sense of comfort and ease in doing business with you, and they too will calm down and think more rationally. But more importantly, you will re-build your client’s trust and reassure their faith in your business as you make room for their emotions - how they feel. You will save your business.
By acknowledging how your client feels and responding with reassurance and redirection, you actually keep conflict in your business to a minimum. You eliminate any adversarial feelings, and instead, partner with your clients in a way that makes them feel that they matter.
After all, your clients are your most valuable stakeholders.
The Timely Entrepreneur
contributed by Cherise Castle-Blugh