by: Colby West
No matter how good of a consultant you are, or even how good you are with people, the time will come that you have to deal with a difficult, demanding, or disgruntled client. Unfortunately, it’s just part of the job. Even though speaking to an upset client is inevitable at one point or another, there are ways to turn negative encounters into a positive experience for both of you. In turn, you will decrease the amount of negative interactions you have over time.
1. Prevention is key
The first way to make your life (and the life of your client) easier is to prevent negative run-ins before they happen. There are a few ways to do this.
First, it’s important to stay on top of your client accounts. This means you need to know exactly what is going on with your client’s accounts day-in and day-out, not just at the end of the month. The best way to do this is with automated marketing reporting.
When you automate your digital marketing reporting, you free up your schedule to have the time for extra touches of excellent customer service and improved communications. Consultants need time to communicate with clients, not just review data, and the automated reporting tools at TapAnalytics allows you this freedom.
Additionally, if you make it a habit to check your automated reports each morning, you will be able to preempt any potentially upsetting changes in your client’s account, and solve the problem before it even becomes an issue. Your clients will appreciate you staying on top of things, and will be less likely to get upset.
Next, you need to have a plan in place in case something does go wrong. If you notice something is off in one of your clients campaigns, don’t disappear and hope it will go away. It won’t. Instead, give your client a call before they call you. When you let them know you know what is going on with their campaigns, and how you plan to move forward, they will stay calm and appreciate your attentiveness.
Finally, consider scheduling regular times to speak with your clients. As you maintain a positive relationship, you have the opportunity to build an ongoing relationship of trust.
As you follow the steps listed above, you will set yourself on the path to avoiding client communication problems before they become an issue.
In the event that you aren’t able to preempt a problem before it happens, here are some ideas to help turn a negative experience into a positive experience through expert communication.
2. Communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more.
One of the main reasons clients have problems is because of communication breakdowns. When you learn how to communicate effectively, you are able to get on the same page as your client, understand each other, and, ultimately, solve problems together.
The first step in communication, is not to talk and tell your side of the story, but rather to listen.
One particular brand understands the value of listening to the customer (over talking to the customer) so much, that they base their whole advertising strategy around the concept of listening. Ken Garff, a car dealership, experiences success, because they focus on letting the customer know that when they come to buy a car, their salesmen will listen, and not talk. Here are just a few of their many brilliant ad campaigns.
Ken Garff gets that customers want to be heard, and they are rewarded with additional sales.
For a more customer-focused example on the importance of listening to communicate, I relate a personal example.
I used to work at a company offering customer service to clients, and let me tell you, I dealt with a disgruntled customer or two. Something I noticed over time was that all I had to do to get them to calm down was to simply say “I’m listening and I hear you” and then take the time to do what I had just promised, be quiet, and listen.
After I listened to customer’s vent, I understood their frustration fully and they knew that I understood the problem. This opened the door for me to explain to them how I would go about solving their problem.
After each of these encounters and nearly 100% of the time, the customer call ended up turning into a positive experience for both of us.
What’s more is these same customers that called in so angry ended up calling back and asking specifically for me every time they needed something. Why? We communicated well with each other.
3. Listening is key.
Another great way to over-communicate is to simply stay in close contact with your customer. Schedule regular times to call, email, and report to your customers. When you exceed their expectations by going above and beyond, you will establish a solid relationship, and they will love you.
4. Advocate the success of their business, and be sincere about it
Communication makes a good consultant, but what makes a great consultant? I’m glad you asked. When you genuinely care for your client’s business, there is no way you will let it fail.
As you care for your client’s business, you will work hard to understand their challenges, and, more importantly, find solutions to their challenges.
Your clients will be able to tell when you care about the success of their business, and it will result in loyalty, friendship, and referrals.
Wait…still not happy?
Suppose you’ve tried the methods above and your client is still not happy for some reason. If this is the case, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate. This may indicate that something went wrong when you were setting goals and expectations together.
If you are constantly dealing with the same upset customer, here are some ways to manage your relationship and turn the tables.
- Re-evaluate your goals together. Take your goals back to the drawing board, and work to understand what they want and what you can provide for them. Take the time to make sure you are on the same page, and create a physical document that both of you can refer to in the future.
- Manage expectations. Make sure to determine not only what they want, but what it will take to get there. This could include establishing timelines for your goals and weekly check-lists to make sure you are progressing.
- Don’t promise results. One mistake consultants make is promising specific results. Marketing can be tricky, and it’s hard to hit a specific quantifiable number. Instead of promising results, promise them to take certain actions in order to grow their business. Ask them, “if I do this, will you be happy.” Then, agree on action-based work, rather than results-based work. Remember that if you are working hard, you will see results.
Document all of your client interactions
No one likes to get in a he-said/she-said battle. One way to avoid this and improve client communications is to document everything.
Do this by creating a consistent point of reference that you, your staff, and your client can access at all times. That way, if there is confusion about a goal, campaign, or previous conversation, you all have the same point of reference.
Getting in the habit of documenting everything will save you and your client a lot of frustration.
Don’t Go Above Your Contact
You may be frustrated by a certain client contact, but there is nothing worse that going above them in order to try and get different results. You will have a much better experience if you make them look good to their manager, rather than if you undermine them by going above them.
Even if you are having trouble getting the client to do their part, don’t go above them. Instead, set goals and give them timelines for deliverables. This will help you work together to get things done.
Be on the offensive
If you notice you have a problem, bring it to your client’s attention before they bring it to yours. When you make the first move, they will respect you and understand that you are on their team. No matter what the problem is, remember that honesty is the best policy.
The Benefits of Improved Client Communication
When you work hard to improve client communication across the board, you will be rewarded in one of three ways…maybe even all three ways.
- Referrals. Think about any positive interaction you have previously had with a brand. I, for example, have had amazing customer service experiences with American Express. Anytime someone needs a credit card, I refer them to American Express. I even have my own referral link where I get additional benefits for referrals. It’s awesome, and I love them. Similarly, there is a particular cable provider that has given me grief every time I need help. In fact, whenever I need help, I can’t get ahold of the right person, and when I do, they are rude. Not only did I quit their service, but I tell everyone how horrible they are, and how bad their communication is. The better your communicate, the more referrals you will get.
- Upselling opportunities. As you establish good lines of communication, you will also have opportunities to upsell to your client. They will trust you and be willing to take your advice, even if it means spending more money.
- Maintain your clients. There is nothing quite like a loyal customer. The best way to foster loyalty? Communication.
Consulting is not an easy job, but as you work to automate your tasks, your digital marketing reporting and improve your communication skills, you will be rewarded with customer appreciation and loyalty.
Colby West is the President & Co-Founder of TapClicks
Connect with him here