[This article was written by Zack Halliwell.]
As a small business or sole trader dealing with clients is a daily endeavour. Some are lovely and an asset to your business, others… can be politely called a headache. No matter how good your product, service or staff may be some clients will still find room to complain. The way you respond to this unhappiness, more often than not, will determine both the reputation and strength of your business. If you are known to keep even the unhappiest of clients happy after all, people will easily see your value.
There are a number of strategies which you can employ in order to help deal with your unhappy clients as quickly as possible.
Sometimes customers are unhappy for no reason at all. It happens and as irritating as it may be, it can usually be dealt with by simply being reasonable. However, when a client has cause to be unhappy it is easy to become very defensive over the issues involved.
The power of listening can never be understated and it is one of your most potent tools when it comes to dealing with unhappy clients. Take the time to call your client or sit down with them, as this real-life interaction will be better appreciated in the long term. This requires a little bit of patience on your part as it can be hard to sit and listen to negative comments about your business. But, if you are seen to be reasonable and actively listening during this you can go along way to stemming your client’s initial anger.
Learning to listen can be difficult, but not impossible. Active listening is a genuine life skill, so start practising today!
Get to the Bottom of It
Whether there is or there isn’t a problem when a complaint is made it is your responsibility to get to the bottom of it. Actively pursuing complaints, making a show that you actually care about the client’s concerns can go a long way to resolving the issue halfway without much effort on your part. This can involve asking the relevant workers (employees or your remote team, whichever your business runs with), tracking back through the line of work until you discover what went wrong and even reviewing the final product or service to determine its quality.
This can also involve questioning the client as to the full extent of their issue. Pointed, but always polite, questions could lead easily help to resolve issues much faster. They may even highlight to the client that the issue is less with you and your service, but perhaps something that might have gone wrong on their side.
Resolve Issues Quickly
If you do find an issue, then obviously finding a good way to resolve it is your next step. This is only reasonable and is what would be expected in such a situation. It may come at a cost to you, but it will do wonders for your reputation if you acknowledge and resolve issues to the best of your ability. As well as potentially helping to smooth things over with the unhappy client in question.
However, if the fault wasn’t with you or your small business and it’s not reasonable to resolve, then you may have to accept the loss of this particular client. It’s not an easy decision to make. But, the fact is that if your business is not at fault and the client is persistently unreasonable and hard to work with, then your business may be better off without them. It’s a last resort, yet one you may find yourself having to make from time to time.
Failing to resolve issues, on the reverse, can be very bad for your business and even lead you into legal difficulties if the client chooses to sue. In which case, it will be left to you to meet the expenses of a solicitor and then perhaps pay out a large sum if you lose.
Feedback is Actually Good
Yes, even bad feedback is good feedback. Why? If it helps to reveal fundamental or small issues in your business, which you then resolve, the value speaks for itself. Even when this doesn’t happen, it allows you the practice of dealing with difficult clients (which will happen much more often than you would like, no doubt). Both situations then give you a chance to grow as a small business owner and make your business better moving forward.
The more feedback you have the more you can improve your business over time. Listen, learn and adapt to everything that your clients have to throw at you.
All in all, your business needs to be able to face any number of situations on a daily basis; including unhappy clients. It is a vital skill for a business owner – from small businesses to huge corporations – to have. Without it, you could find your business on the back foot more often than you would like. No one likes to deal with complaints or unhappiness, but doing so successfully can be a real boon under the right circumstances – learn and live this!
Zack Halliwell is a freelance writer in the business market. In particular, he has been working with local litigation solicitors to help small business owners better understand the legalities of running a business. You can connect with him on Twitter @ZackHalliwell.